Well, that was quick. We're pretty much down to a two-man race for Rookie of the Year before 2014 even hit.
Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo have both separated early from the pack. And they look good.
Each player recorded a triple-double in the same game Tuesday night. Carter-Williams went for 27 points, 12 boards, 10 assists and three steals, while Oladipo nearly matched him with a 26-10-10-3 line of his own.
Carter-Williams is really some type of mismatch out there at the point. We like to toss around measurements all year long—heights, wingspans, max verticals—but you can't undervalue the role they're playing in Carter-Williams' success.
For starters, point guards aren't usually your easy-bucket producers. Typically, the smallest players on the floor, they're usually the guys who set up easy buckets for the big guys and go-to scorers.
But not only is Carter-Williams a terrific setup man, at 6'6" with showtime athleticism, he's able to pick up easy buckets of his own—buckets that aren't usually available to primary facilitators.
For example, to most, a floater is a lower-percentage shot. It's a lot easier to lay it up off the glass than it is to float it up over rim protection—on the move no less.
But because of Carter-Williams' size, his floaters are a whole lot easier to convert.
Check out his release point compared to the rim protector's contest point on this floater in the lane:
He's able to pick up baskets that the majority of points guards simply aren't able to pick up. Carter-Williams doesn't have to rely on hitting as many tough shots.
You won't find many point guards who're able to execute a finger roll from the dotted circle:
That extra size and terrific leaping ability contribute to rebounds and tips around the rim, as well as an overwhelming defensive presence. Carter-Williams currently leads the NBA in steals, something that doesn't seem that fluky given the tools he has to work with.
He's shooting it 32 percent from downtown, which is actually better than what he shot it as a sophomore at Syracuse. Assuming his jumper continues to improve and his body starts to fill out, Carter-Williams has a chance at emerging into one of the toughest covers in the league.
Getting Nerlens Noel back on his feet and adding some weapons in the draft should only increase Carter-Williams' effectiveness as a backcourt playmaker.
In terms of his ceiling, I'm thinking he'll have the chance to make a Rajon Rondo-like impact once the Sixers roster improves. Expect him to follow in Damian Lillard's footsteps as the next big thing at the point guard position.
Oladipo hasn't been as consistently productive as Carter-Williams, but he's flashed some signs that suggest stardom is just around the corner.
Just like we knew Carter-Williams could pass, we knew that Oladipo can attack. He's as explosive as anyone hitting a hole, and his athleticism allows him to finish strong or acrobatically around the rim.
But Oladipo's offensive game just continues to expand. Who's anyone to say when it's going to stop? He's playing the role of point guard better than expected, while his scoring repertoire has gone from limited to lethal within a matter of a year.
Strictly an off-the-ball guard in college, these new dimensions of offense he's added have lifted his NBA ceiling.
For example, Oladipo has all of a sudden blossomed into an effective pick-and-roll facilitator. Given his speed and explosiveness, defenses are so focused on him when he's dribbling over a screen. And now he's using that threat he poses to set up teammates for open shots.
When guarding Oladipo, the No. 1 goal of the defense is to keep him in front of it. He lives for high-flying dunks, line drives and fast-break opportunities—which is why this new perimeter-scoring arsenal has made him a whole lot more dangerous.
He's creating his own offense by separating for makable jump shots. Step-backs, pull-ups—these are the shots that ultimately separate the role players from the go-to ones.
Oladipo is a relentless defender, an elite attacker and an extraordinary all-around effort guy. Now that he's showcasing a legitimate feel for the point, along with a much-improved one-on-one scoring game, Oladipo has all of a sudden become a total-package combo guard.
Considering he looks like a new player to start every season, it's tough to tell where the elevator is going to stop. But there's no doubt his ceiling sits at All-Star heights.
Once the Magic sort out their lineup and assign Oladipo with a regular role, he'll one day have a shot at being a 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist type of contributor.
Oladipo and Carter-Williams are two of the brightest young players in the game, and if it weren't for them, the 2013 draft class would be looking awfully mediocre. Expect both of them to continue expanding and polishing up their games to the point where they're recognized as top players at their respective positions.
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