6 Keys for Michael Carter-Williams to Win Rookie of the Year
Michael Carter-Williams took the NBA by storm when he put up the ridiculous stat-line of 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 9 steals for the Philadelphia 76ers in his first career game. Things have slowed down a bit since then, but the question now becomes, can he continue to play at a high enough level to take home the Rookie of the Year award?
The answer to that question will come in time, but he's proven that he has the game to make it happen.
It's interesting that Carter-Williams is suddenly leading the race for Rookie of the Year, because he wasn't shy in expressing interest in the award before the season started.
Ben Jefferson of the United Kingdom's Daily Express wrote an article on Philadelphia's rookie point guard and some of his goals heading into his first season. Carter-Williams made it clear that he's aiming for the top:
I’m targeting the All Rookie Team and the Rookie of the Year award. Those are things I believe I’m capable of achieving.
There's a lot of basketball to still be played, but the Sixers might have a special player on their hands. A special player who's capable of winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
Let's take a look at some of Carter-Williams' keys toward making that happen.
6. Continue to Get Minutes
I recently wrote an article in which I looked at the past five winners of the Rookie of the Year award and how minutes per game contributed to winning that accolade. Here's a look at what I said:
The biggest factor for battle of the Rookie of the Year award could end up coming down to which rookie gets the most playing time.
Here's a look at the past five Rookie of the Year award winners and how many minutes they averaged per game:
Year Player Minutes Per Game 2008-09 Derrick Rose 37.0 2009-10 Tyreke Evans 37.2 2010-11 Blake Griffin 38.0 2011-12 Kyrie Irving 30.5 2012-13 Damian Lillard 38.6
The correlation between playing time and statistical success makes sense when you think about it. Theoretically, more playing time on the court should lead to an increased number of opportunities for someone to make plays.
Carter-Williams is currently averaging 36.3 minutes per game, so it looks like he's getting right around the perfect amount of playing time. The good news for him is that the Sixers don't have a reason not to give him a lot of minutes on a nearly nightly basis. The team's roster is so weak that giving him minutes—even if they are full of some mistakes—will end up benefiting the team more than replacing him with somebody off the bench.
The first step toward the Rookie of the Year award is for Carter-Williams to be getting consistent minutes. It doesn't look like he'll have to worry about that part too much.
5. Limit His Turnovers
The majority of this article is talking about what Carter-Williams is doing well and how he needs to continue on the same path.
This slide is focused on one of the weaker parts of his game.
A point guard generally tends to run his team from a system standpoint as they have the ball in their hands more often than anybody else. The more the ball is in someone's hands, the more they have a chance at turning it over, though.
That chance is pumped up even more when the point guard is getting 36.3 minutes per game like Carter-Williams is.
The rookie point guard is averaging 3.3 turnovers per game and is proving that decision making is one of his only weaknesses. Unfortunately, that's a crucial area to have a weakness in for a point guard.
Out of nine total games, Carter-Williams has turned the ball over at least four times in four of those games, and that's including two 6-turnover nights. He'll need to get better at avoiding nights where he's consistently giving away the rock.
Rookies and turnovers go hand-in-hand. Adjusting to the speed and intricacies of the NBA game can take quite awhile to get used to. Carter-Williams seems to have adjusted in every area except ball security, so it's important that we acknowledge an area where he needs to improve at.
Especially if we're talking about him winning the Rookie of the Year.
4. Lead All Rookies in Assists and Steals
One of the quickest ways for Carter-Wiliams to lock up the Rookie of the Year award is for him to finish the season out leading all rookies in assists and steals per game.
He's definitely off to a good start.
The young point guard comes in at No. 7 in the NBA's assist category with 7.4 per game. When it comes to steals, Carter-Williams comes in at No. 4 on the NBA's list with 2.33 per game.
And yes, that's the entire NBA we're talking about, not just rookies.
It might not look like Carter-Williams has much of a lead over the other two rookies, but he actually does. It's much easier for someone's statistics to go down rather than up, because it's much easier to have a string of mediocre games than great ones.
Ending the year leading all rookies in both assists and steals per game will mean that Carter-Williams was the best rookie point guard of the season.
That title will help in locking up the award.
3. Shoot the Ball Effectively
We won't jump to conclusions and say that Carter-Williams is a good shooter. He's currently shooting 37.5 percent from both the field and three-point range, so there is clearly some work to be done.
With that said, he's doing much better than he did during the Orlando Pro Summer League this past summer, and it'll be interesting to see if he can keep up his shooting numbers.
Bleacher Report's featured columnist Tyler Conway described Carter-Williams' summer league shooting numbers, and it's quick to see why everybody is so surprised with his current performance:
The story coming out of Orlando Summer League was how abysmal he looked trying to score the ball. Carter-Williams shot 27.1 percent in Orlando. When he joined the Sixers for the preseason, he did improve—all the way to a robust 32.9 percent. He shot 39.3 percent last year in college, where his elite skills should have made scoring easier.
The article then went on to talk about how he only scored 20 points or more one time in 66 collegiate games. It looks like we have some strong evidence to suggest that the NBA is different from the college game.
Carter-Williams finishing the season out around 41 percent from the field and 30 percent or better from three-point range will be crucial. Doing so would all but lock up his chances for Rookie of the Year, because it would mean that his scoring would be efficient enough to suggest that he's being productive and not just throwing the ball at the rim.
Those numbers aren't far from where he's at now, but we don't know how he'll handle such a long NBA season. A lot of rookies hit that "wall" and struggle to find success.
That won't be an option for Carter-Williams.
2. Outperform Other Top Rookies in Head-to-Head Matchups
Being pick No. 11 in the NBA draft gives Carter-Williams the chance to prove to everybody that he should have been picked higher. What better way to do that than to outperform the other top rookies when he plays against them?
Players like Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were all drafted in front of Carter-Williams, and having a better performance when playing against them will surely prove Carter-Williams' rank.
Philly hasn't played against any of the four players listed above, yet, but the Sixers have some games coming up against those rookies' teams.
1. Stay Healthy
Carter-Williams is only going to able to win the Rookie of the Year award if he's able to stay on the floor.
We're only 13 games into the 2013-14 season, but he has already missed four games due to a bruised foot. If he keeps up this kind of pace, then Carter-Williams is only looking at playing around 57 out of a possible 82 games.
Missing 25 games won't be good enough to take home the coveted award, so it's vital for him to find a way to stay on the court.
His biggest enemy won't be some major injury that takes him out for an extended amount of time. Realistically, there aren't many of those that take place over the course of an NBA season. Instead, the Syracuse product needs to look out for the minor nagging injury that keeps him out for a couple of games at a time.
Something like the foot injury he's currently going through.
There are a lot of games left so it's way too early to be worried about him missing an long period of time, but it's definitely something to look out for.
Especially if he wants to win the Rookie of the Year award.