Predicting the Ups and Downs We'll See from Michael Carter-Williams

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterOctober 31, 2013

Holy moly. Michael Carter-Williams went nuts in his debut, activating video-game mode against the defending NBA champions. 

His stat line was insane—22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven boards. And not only that, but he also helped the "tanking" Philadelphia 76ers pull out the win in crunch time. 

So what can we expect from here on out? Probably not many nine-steal games. Still, some of the success Carter-Williams had against the Miami Heat is likely to be repeated at various points of the season. But don't expect it to come without some turbulence along the way.

The Ups

Carter-Williams made some plays during his debut we can expect to see him make regularly throughout the year. And credit coach Brett Brown, who drew up some nice sets and put his rookie point guard in the best possible position to flourish. 

Look for Carter-Williams to shine as a distributor all season long, both in the half court and running the break. 


There's really no question who's going to lead all rookies in dimes. Carter-Williams finished third in the country at Syracuse last season in assists, which wasn't a fluke. He's a natural playmaker with the willingness to think pass before shoot. And given his 6'6'' size, he's able to see over the defense and neutralize the pressure. 

Pick-and-Roll, Pick-and-Pop

M.C.W. picked up a number of assists facilitating the pick-and-roll, with the timing of his dribble, hesitation and passes all on point. 

His size also plays a major role in his effectiveness running it, which can often require the point guard to make a pass over one or two defenders—depending on how the pick-and-roll is played. 

When defenses choose to trap the ball-handler, many point guards have trouble even seeing the roller or pop guy. But not Carter-Williams, who can easily make the pass over the top given his awesome size advantage. 

Look for the Sixers to run a lot of pick-and-roll action as a way of setting up less-talented teammates with easy scoring chances. 

Transition Offense

Against Miami, Carter-Williams looked to push the tempo whenever he had the chance. Considering he racked up nine steals, he was able to start the fast break by himself as opposed to waiting for an outlet pass.

Carter-Williams is deadly in the open floor, where his long strides, fluid athleticism and playmaking instincts take over. 

Expect Carter-Williams to push the ball a ton this year, as the Sixers don't have many strong half-court scoring options. By pushing the ball, defenses often don't have time to properly set. 

In the example below, Carter-Williams races down the court after a miss and earns the attention of all five defenders on the floor. A few of them step up in an attempt to keep Carter-Williams from getting an easy layup. 

In the process, these help defenders will often leave shooters open.

With excellent vision, Carter-Williams does a nice job of finding his shooters in rhythm.

It's tough to get wide-open looks when the game is slowed down in the half court. But by pushing the tempo, Carter-Williams will be able to create more quality scoring opportunities for teammates who can't create them themselves. 

Expect Carter-Williams to dish out hundreds of dimes in transition this upcoming year. 


Nine steals was a little fluky, but there's no doubt he's an absolute pest on the defensive end. His size makes it extremely difficult for opposing ball-handlers to operate with comfort. He's constantly getting his hands in passing lanes and suffocating his man on the perimeter. 

He picked up at least four steals 12 different times last season for the Orange last year, finishing the year No. 6 in the country in steals per game.

Whether it's trapping, on-ball harassment or off-ball pick-pocketing, Carter-Williams has emerged as a defensive ace.

He should end up going head-to-head with Victor Oladipo for the rookie lead in steals. 

The Downs

Feel free to get excited after Carter-Williams' debut. Just don't expect that performance to be the norm. He caught a few breaks here and there in terms of teammates making tough shots, sloppy passing by the Heat and Dwyane Wade on the injury shelf. I'm sure he'll have plenty of games throughout the year where he puts up monster numbers across the board. But be prepared for some rough patches. This won't be as smooth of a ride as his debut made it seem it might be. 


Carter-Williams dropped 22 against the Heat in his first NBA action. To put that in perspective, he only scored 20 points once in two years at Syracuse. 

In his debut, Carter-Williams picked up a number of easy buckets off turnovers. He also knocked down a variety of outside shots he doesn't normally take. 

He averaged around 12 points in college, 13 in summer league and eight in preseason. I'd mesh these numbers together and expect an average around 11 points a game as a rookie. Assuming the 76ers look to run, there's a good chance he blows up for 20 from time to time. But don't count on much scoring consistency throughout the year. That's just not his game. 


Four three-pointers on opening night? I wouldn't be surprised if he finished the year with that being his season high. 

He shot just 29.4 percent from three as a sophomore in college, 15 percent in summer league and 27 percent inpreseason. He's been terribly erratic from outside the paint, and though he can certainly improve over the long run, it might be a little irresponsible to think he's suddenly a long-range sniper.

I've got Carter-Williams finishing the year around 32 percent from downtown. 


The same Carter-Williams who went for 12 dimes and one turnover against Miami also led the country in turnovers as a sophomore at Syracuse. And that was with legitimate weapons around him. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Guard Michael Carter-Williams #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers passes the ball against forward Rashard Lewis #9 and guard Norris Cole #30 of the Miami Heat on October 30, 2013 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylva
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

His top-three options in Philly are currently Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. There's a chance Carter-Williams implodes at times during the year, though I wouldn't put much blame on him. As a rookie, he's in a tough spot that calls for him to have a hand in just about every offensive possession with minimal talent to play off of. 

He had two summer-league games in which he coughed it up eight or more times. Though clever and heady, he sometimes tries to make the impossible play. And he'll learn. This isn't a long-term issue. But it could mess with his efficiency as a rookie point guard on a team without many weapons.  


By the time his first seasons ends, Carter-Williams will look back on plenty of positive and encouraging moments. But there will also be plenty of hiccups along the way.

He couldn't have asked for a better start to his NBA career. And whether he likes it or not, the bar has officially been raised. I'm predicting Carter-Williams reaches it as a passer and defender but falls just short as a scorer and shooter. 


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