A few weeks ago, Michael Carter-Williams was traded for the second time in his young career and on the face of it, there was a huge red flag warning to the Chicago Bulls who are team number three. Why would a 6-6 point guard lottery pick be unable to stick with a team and system unless he is a damaged beyond repair NBA player?
Before his rookie contract expires, Carter-Williams will have played for a holistically awful NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers. He will have played for a team coached by a Hall of Famer who gave up on him in Jason Kidd. And now the Chicago Bulls are on the clock.
The Bulls have let everyone know via their past history they are not in the salvage business. They just dealt their popular (in many quarters) franchise player, Derrick Rose, to the Knicks. So they have zero sentimentality. This is an organization, although a different regime, that let Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson walk, basically hand wrapping 5 titles to the Lakers.
As we know him, Michael Carter-Williams is a notoriously awful shooter and mistake laden passer. He doesn’t really have a fit outside of the bench. He doesn’t have much in the way of leadership skills. He is a role player.
|2013 Draft- Point Guards (Career Numbers)||Points||FG%||3-Point%||Assists|
|Michael Carter-Williams #11 (76ers)||14.3||41.1%||25.6%||6.1|
|Dennis Schroder #17 (Hawks)||9.1||46.7%||37.0%||3.8|
A 2013 lottery pick out of Syracuse with the dead weight around his neck that he was the worst shooter of the guard draft class, all Michael Carter-Williams did was go out and win Rookie of the Year. Then his career plummeted.
Last season, he was aggressively shopped and no takers were willing to pick up the 24 year old before the trade deadline. The thinking was if Jason Kidd, point guard extraordinaire, couldn’t fix him, then he was truly hopeless.
There are a lot of people who look at the surface melody and compare Michael Carter-Williams with Tyreke Evans. Both were Rookies of the Year who had subsequent struggles in the years that followed. But there is a difference here. Tyreke Evans couldn’t stay healthy. He was always banged up. And he couldn’t find a way to resurrect a perimeter game. Tyreke feasted on blow-bys and drives to the rim. He was traded by Sacramento, the team who drafted him, to New Orleans. He has yet to play this season after knee surgery and complications.
Michael Carter-Williams is a cautionary tale. He is on his third team. He was drafted by the 76ers and to everyone’s surprise had a breakout Rookie of the Year 2013-14. But even then, his numbers were deceptive. He was an inefficient and hopeless shooter in a league that now depends on guards making shots. He made very bad decisions with the ball. He was long but wasn’t the defender he should have been. He could be very lazy and his fundamentals were awful. His fellow first round draft pick in 2013, Dennis Schröder, just signed a $70 million extension. Schröder was a back up and now has been promoted to a starter. Michael Carter-Williams career is in reverse, a starter who is trying to hold on to his back up role.
The worst thing that could happen to MCW was what happened to him, so much success so early.
When he was traded to Milwaukee and Jason Kidd there was this hope that a Hall of Fame point guard could fix him but the same problems remained and then the Bucks wanted him gone too. Now he is Chicago’s problem but for only a year. Like Rondo and Wade, if this experiment doesn’t work the Bulls can wash their hands of him. As far as NBA hierarchy goes, Michael Carter-Williams doesn’t really matter.
But what do we really know about his career besides the glaring headlines of can’t shoot a pea in the ocean if he was standing on the beach?
He isn’t a starting point. He doesn’t have the skill set as far decision making. He doesn’t make players better. He has no court vision. He doesn’t see a play before it happens and he’s not particularly skilled at pick and roll. Philly was a bad example to judge him. The players were so hopeless anyone in Carter-Williams place would succeed with that rag tag crew and they did. Ish Smith did for Philly what Michael Carter-Williams did a couple of years earlier. So he isn’t really special. But so what? Less than 1% of NBA talent is special. You need committed, know their role bench players.
Last season, Carter-Williams was the 37th ranked point guard as far as impact. 26 of those ranked ahead of him are starters for their team(s) meaning not much room for Carter-Williams to start in the NBA.
It’s a miss or make league and Carter-Williams usually misses when he heaves his shots. His career numbers for three point makes is 26%. His rookie year, his three point numbers were 26% so in 3 seasons plus he hasn’t improved. More worrisome for the Bulls: he isn’t showing an ability to make two point shots either, shooting 23%. A point guard who can’t shoot is a point guard not going to be employed for long. His True Shooting Percentage (free throws and shots from the field) is a miserable 35.8%. But it is only been 3 games in 2016-17. He’s out six weeks because of injury.
Can his shooting problems be fixed? Several say no. It starts with fundamentals. He has terrible footwork and until that is changed with a summer of rework he will always but a marginal NBA talent.
But he can resurrect something in Chicago once he returns from injury even though the odds seem stacked against him. Rondo is a poor shooting point guard but he is a magician with the ball and knows how to get players the shots they need when they need them. That is a talent but the hidden secrets to the point guard game is something Carter-Williams can learn, except Rondo has never been open to the mentor role. Can Carter-Williams pick up tutoring on the fly? Will the mecurial Rondo be willing to take MCW under his wing? At the very least Michael Carter-Williams can learn toughness.
In real time, the former Rookie of the Year is a huge liability. He just isn’t guarded which means someone is rotating onto someone else and leaving him alone. Carter-Williams knows he can’t shoot so he is a reluctant offensive player. The only problem with passing first and nothing else second is that when Carter-Williams passes he has John Wall syndrome and turns the ball over. So where can he fit in the NBA landscape?
He is 6-6 with some explosiveness but just not much know how. He’ll be on someone’s bench. It’s hard to figure out how the Bulls, who already are challenged in the scoring point guard position, can wait around. The Bulls aren’t a team like the Lakers or 76ers that are rebuilding and have the patience to see how this goes. And that is the story of Michael Carter-Williams so far.
Instead of see how it goes, he is being forced to achieve right now. Except. He needs teaching. He is being forced to make a difference for a playoff team. Then he fails. His identity is repeated. Can’t shoot. Can’t pass. Failure. It affects his psyche. And here we go again. It’s a revolving door that unfortunately, for him, may continue as he gives the Bulls nearly nothing in his return except the heady idea of his potential.
photo via llananba