And just like that, the race for NBA Rookie of the Year is on.
Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams have quickly established themselves as the standouts from the 2013 class.
But we're not interested in finding out who has the better rookie season. We want to know who'll be the better player down the road if both reach their ceilings.
A player's ceiling is essentially the best potential version of himself once he's maximized his talent. So who's got the more appealing best-case scenario lined up?
In order to find that out, let's address each players' strengths with regard to the potential impact they're capable of making.
He's a natural playmaker. With the ball in his hands, Carter-Williams is able to generate offense, whether it be for himself or a teammate.
As a first-year starter at Syracuse, he finished third in the country in assists while sharing a backcourt with senior guard Brandon Triche. With smooth athleticism, long strides and terrific offensive instincts, he's able to get to his spots on the floor and consistently create scoring opportunities.
He's already had two 20-point performances with double-digit assists. Damian Lillard pulled that off only four times in 82 tries during his Rookie of the Year campaign.
Carter-Williams has excellent vision when operating off the dribble, and possesses a knack for setting teammates up for open looks.
As a pure, natural point guard, Carter-Williams will have the rock and freedom to manage or control a game. With the ability to dictate its flow, he'll be in the driver's seat for the Philadelphia 76ers—a powerful position to be in.
Oladipo's Athleticism, Intangibles
While Carter-Williams glides around the court, Oladipo explodes. He's a high-flying athlete and highlight waiting to happen.
His 42'' max vertical leap is constantly on display, whether he's skying for a rebound or finishing in transition.
Oladipo is the type of guy who can make an impact without requiring the ball. His athleticism, along with the intangibles he brings to the table are always felt throughout a game. His energy and effort are contagious, while his unselfishness and team-first approach contribute to constant positivity.
Oladipo excels in areas of the game that can't be taught, which not only holds up his ceiling, but also gives him a high basement floor just in case his development slows down. Even if Oladipo never improves and a worst-case scenario plays out, he'll still be an impact player thanks to his athletic ability and intangibles.
Carter-Williams' Physical Advantage
Carter-Williams' physical tools play a major role towards the establishment of his ceiling. It's what makes him unique, and ultimately separates him from others at his position.
At roughly 6'6'' with long, disruptive arms, Carter-Williams is going to have a size advantage on an every-night basis.
Regardless of how hard his defenders work, most point guards just don't have physical attributes to effectively challenge or interfere. Carter-Williams can make plays over the defense or around them, either as a scorer or facilitator.
He went for 26 and 10 against the Chicago Bulls, holding Derrick Rose to just 4-of-14 for 13 points and six assists. And throughout the night, Carter-Williams was finding ways to make plays without anyone impeding his playmaking.
Given his measurements and physical strengths, Carter-Williams will have an advantage that no other point guard in the league will share. And that's something that helps raise his ceiling through the clouds.
Oladipo's Evolving Offensive Arsenal
Oladipo's offensive arsenal seems to be growing by the day. He's evolved into an incredibly versatile guard who's spending more time on the ball than he ever has before.
With a noticeably-improved handle, he's become a much bigger threat off the dribble. And though it's early, he's also flashed glimpses of a lethal scoring arsenal.
He's learning how to create and make his own shot away from the rim. If his step-backs, pull-ups and speciality-shots become everyday weapons, Oladipo could emerge into a dangerous all-around scorer.
Within the past few months, Oladipo has also shown promise as a playmaker. He's averaging four assists through four games, tapping into his quickness to breakdown defenses and his awareness to find the open man.
I'm not so sure the point-guard experiment will work out, but Oladipo has the potential to generate offense in more ways than one.
Both Oladipo and Carter-Williams have the chance at becoming top-flight NBA defenders.
Oladipo's motor, lateral quickness and in-game intensity make him an absolute pest on the defensive side of the ball. It's what gotten him to where he is today. He has the ability to create four-point-swing opportunities by forcing turnovers and converting them into points on the break.
Carter-Williams is no different. With his size and length, he's able to suffocate opposing ball-handlers and reach into passing lanes. He finished No. 6 in the county in steals last year, and recorded nine of them in his NBA debut.
The impact both of these players are capable of making on defense helps drive their ceilings to eye-opening heights.
It's tough to predict Oladipo's ceiling. He just keep evolving, and it's impossible to know when he'll stop.
But in just three games, Carter-Williams has already flashed a ceiling that could be tough for Oladipo to top. We're looking at Carter-Williams' best right now—and at his best, not even Derrick Rose has been able to slow him down.
The mismatch he presents at the point-guard position is just too rare and overwhelming.
The fact is, Carter-Williams' ceiling was higher than Oladipo's even before the draft. His chances of reaching it just didn't seem very good.
Oladipo is a sure thing. Carter-Williams isn't. But if it turns out that the Carter-Williams we've seen through three NBA games is one we can possibly see on the regular, then we could be looking at one of the premier point guards in the league one day.
So far, we've seen him tear up the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls, averaging 22 and nine assists in the process. And though it's unlikely he'll sustain this hot play throughout the year, the fact that he's done it illustrates the potential for repetition.
Whether it's three games or three seasons, a towering ceiling has already been established. That doesn't mean he'll reach it, but it's there.
M.C.W. has shown he can take over a game as a scorer, playmaker and defender while running the show at the point. His confidence is at an all-time high right now, and it's clearly translating to production and wins.
Coming into the year, outside shooting had been Carter-Williams' major red flag. But his jumper doesn't seem as broken as we might have thought. Of course, his 47-percent three-point stroke is bound to fall, but he certainly looks capable on the perimeter.
If he's able to shoot anything like he has through three NBA games, defenses just won't have an answer.
However, I'd take Oladipo's floor as the higher of the two. For Carter-Williams, this mini outburst could all just be a flash in the pan. But Oladipo comes with a guarantee label on the packaging.
Oladipo was taken No. 2 overall, not just because of his ceiling, but because of the strong chances he has at reaching it. He was a lock. And though his upside might fall short of Carter-Williams', Oladipo was easily a better bet to make the NBA transition.
Still, ceilings are all about best-case scenarios. And if Carter-Williams hits his, we could be talking about one of the toughest covers in the league. I just don't see Oladipo becoming the Dwyane Wade-like scorer many have pegged him to be.
We're ruling that Michael Carter-Williams has the higher ceiling by a nose hair. But we've given Oladipo a better shot at reaching his.
At the end of the day, Carter-Williams is just the higher-risk, higher-reward prospect of the two. But I'd take either on my team based on what we've seen so far.