In less than one month, 60 of the world's top prospects will become rookies at the 2013 NBA draft. With more uncertainty at the top than in any draft of recent memory, however, there are questions as to which players are worth a top-10 pick.
No matter how many times you hear he's a risk, one of the safest and most deserving options is Syracuse Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
For those unfamiliar, Carter-Williams is one of the most impressive physical specimens we've seen at point guard in recent years. Not only is he athletically gifted, but Carter-Williams has the body type to dominate his position.
Carter-Williams stands at 6'6" and 184 pounds with a 6'7" wingspan.
This isn't the first time we've seen a point guard enter the draft with intriguing physical gifts. A prime example is Tony Wroten Jr., who possesses a similar build at 6'5" and 205 pounds but eventually went 25th overall to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The difference here is that Carter-Williams' size is accompanied by abilities that are in place and ready to be honed to a strong level.
Safe on Offense
One of the most common criticisms of Michael Carter-Williams is that he can't shoot, which is evident in his 29.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. If Carter-Williams were a shooting guard, as he projected to be entering the season, that would be an issue.
The fact of the matter is that Carter-Williams is the best facilitator in this draft class—and it isn't even close.
Carter-Williams can run an up-tempo offense and find both spot-up shooters and slashers with precise passes. In the half court, he is an elite pick-and-roll distributor due to his ability to make passes via his 6'6" frame that the average point guard cannot execute.
To let those abilities go to waste due to concerns over a coachable trait is rather senseless.
Shooting the basketball isn't a physical gift, such as foot speed or leaping ability. Instead, it's a trait that Carter-Williams can work on and improve to a level at which it is no longer a weakness.
LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Rajon Rondo are prime examples of what a strong work ethic can do for a poor jumper.
At the end of the day, Carter-Williams has extraordinary size, blazing quickness and pure facilitating abilities. Fans of the scoring guard may want more from his jump shot, but this is one of the weakest drafts in recent memory.
Carter-Williams has just as much upside as the next best player available—the difference is that his weaknesses are coachable.
Victor Oladipo is the top perimeter defender available, while Nerlens Noel is the best mix of explosive athleticism and natural shot-blocking ability. Both of those players are virtual locks to go in the top 10, if not the top five.
Why wouldn't Michael Carter-Williams join them when he has similar upside on defense?
Not only is Carter-Williams an imposing physical specimen at 6'6", but he's one of the best ball hawks in the nation. That was evident in his average of 2.8 steals per game, which is quite impressive considering he played in a zone at Syracuse.
While some might thrive in playing the passing lanes, Carter-Williams' ability to pick up steals is more translatable—he's able to lock his man down.
Carter-Williams uses his 6'7" wingspan and imposing size to get down into a strong defensive base. With the lateral quickness necessary to remain in front of his man, this opens the door for the former Syracuse point guard to pick his man's pocket and anticipate passes.
There's absolutely no reason to believe that his rangy defense will not translate to the next level.
Carter-Williams may come from Syracuse's 2-3 zone, but to allow that to mar your opinion of his abilities would be unfair. Not only does Carter-Williams project to be excellent in man-to-man sets, but he also could be one of the premier defenders at his position.
Where's the Risk?
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the top five players in assists per game were Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Greivis Vasquez, Jrue Holiday and Deron Williams. Of those five, three ranked in the top 10 amongst point guards in steals per game, with Paul, Rondo and Holiday qualifying.
All three players are All-Stars.
This is what is most puzzling about Carter-Williams, as he's the best facilitator and defensive point guard in this draft. With the basis of evaluation we previously employed, that suggests that he's on pace for an All-Star career.
If not, it puts him in one safe category—Carter-Williams is nothing short of a quality two-way contributor at the next level.
You can cite his issues with turnovers and jump shots, but there's more than enough time to coach those flaws. What you can't deny, however, is that he's the most polished distributor, the player with the highest defensive upside at his position and a 6'6" point guard.
Can't stress that last one enough.
Tony Wroten may have set a poor standard, but he's more of a combo guard who looks for his own shots. Carter-Williams, meanwhile, is of a pass-first nature, and when he needs to turn it on, he will.
For what it's worth, Syracuse, a Final Four participant, had 29.0 percent of its baskets assisted by Carter-Williams.
There's a risk with every player in every draft, no matter how certain we believe he is going to be. With that being said, Carter-Williams has translatable abilities and the size to maximize his strengths.
We can harp on his jump shot all day, or we can acknowledge the facts—Carter-Williams is one of the top 10 players in this draft and deserves to be drafted that way.