Final Four 2013: Head-to-Toe Breakdown of Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams
The 21-year-old sophomore from Hamilton, Mass., has averaged 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game this season.
His up-and-down year has culminated with a sparkling NCAA tournament, as he's showcasing his scoring and facilitating prowess. A 24-point outburst against Indiana was followed by a stat-stuffing performance in the Elite Eight against Marquette: 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, five steals and one block.
If he jumps to the pros this offseason, how do his talents translate to the NBA?
Carter-Williams' primary assets are his length, natural playmaking ability and upside. His court vision, smooth ball-handling and long arms enable him to make passes and finish drives that other point guards can't even attempt.
He tore up opposing defenses early in the season, dishing out double-digit assists in nine of Syracuse's first 14 games. He upped his scoring during conference play while taking a step back with assists. Carter-Williams has terrific body control and can adjust in midair like a pro.
He doesn't possess blinding quickness, but he's agile with the ball and is adept at maneuvering past the first line of defense. Then, his quick hands allow him to feed teammates or finish with a floater at the rim. In transition, he's especially dangerous.
Defensively, MCW projects well at the next level because he can guard multiple positions. His length and mobility will help him check point guards and wings, and his instincts will do the rest.
His athleticism, size and nose for the ball make him a solid rebounder for a guard, although the strength and physicality of the NBA will present challenges in that department.
Weaknesses and Adjustments
Despite his high level of skill and ideal size, Carter-Williams isn't a fully matured floor general. At only 185 pounds, he could stand to put on some muscle.
He led the Big East in turnovers in 2012-13 (3.4 per game), including nine different games with five or more giveaways. MCW must continue to develop his jump-stop in the lane in order to avoid turnovers and off-balance shots.
When the Syracuse offense broke down, he often resorted to isolation drives instead of resetting and whipping his teammates into alignment.
Outside shooting is another area he could upgrade significantly. He doesn't have a bad jumper, and he's hit some big shots for the Orange, but the elevation, fluidity and consistency must improve.
He'll be versatile as a stopper, but he must become more disciplined and learn when to gamble defensively.
Intangibles: The Good and Bad
NBA scouts won't have to worry about Carter-Williams' energy, focus and involvement. He exerts himself defensively and has a knack for tracking down loose balls and rebounds.
As a point guard, he doesn't miss a chance to fire up the rest of Orange.
Triche on MCW: "He makes me play harder on defense.''— Syracuse Basketball (@PSBasketball) March 30, 2013
Is he the consummate leader? Not yet, but he has the potential to be a well-rounded commander on both sides of the ball.
Character-wise, there are still questions surrounding his 2012 shoplifting incident. Some could frame it as a costly transgression reflective of a low-character person, while others might see it as a momentary lapse of judgment.
NBA Player Comparison and Ideal NBA Role
He has been compared to journeyman point guard Shaun Livingston in the past, and that may not be far off. He also compares to Greivis Vasquez, though he is more athletic.
Carter-Williams belongs as a point guard and facilitator.
If he's drafted by a bottom-feeder, he could take over as a starter or primary bench facilitator. He may not be asked to carry the offense and run it extensively, but he could see 25 to 30 minutes per game.
Three years from now, his ideal role is as a pass-first starting point guard who is also capable of getting to the rim.
Overall 2013 Draft Outlook
The Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz and potentially Milwaukee Bucks (depending on Brandon Jennings' future) are all potential landing spots in the early-to-mid first round. If these teams look elsewhere, we could be looking at a draft-day slide.
Assuming there aren't any pre-draft trades, I see the Kings as a likely landing spot.
Keep an eye on MCW's poise, discipline and effectiveness in the Final Four, as his pursuit of an NCAA championship could substantially influence his draft stock.
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