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Win: Michael Carter-Williams (3-2)
Place: Victor Oladipo (2-1)
Show: Trey Burke (4-1)
When he's been healthy, Michael Carter-Williams has performed better than any other rookie, including his two nearest competitors, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke. MCW leads all first-year players in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. And he's not an empty-number generator either.
When Carter-Williams is in the lineup, the Philadelphia 76ers have a respectable 8-11 record. In the 11 games he's missed this season, they're just 1-10. Clearly, it's not difficult to make a case for his Rookie of the Year candidacy.
What is tough, though, is keeping him on the floor.
Those 11 injury-related absences might be outliers, but they could also represent a combination of overall frailty and an understandably cautious approach from the Sixers front office. If Philadelphia continues to hold MCW out whenever he suffers a hangnail—which, by the way, it'd be wise to do for purposes of tanking—there's a decent chance he won't play enough to deserve the award.
If Oladipo, who hasn't missed a game all season, winds up with less impressive per-game numbers while logging 20 or 30 more contests on the year, he'll have a strong case for the honor.
Burke, the third man in this rookie hierarchy, has played extremely well since sitting out the first dozen engagements of the year. Among rookies, only Carter-Williams has averaged more points and assists per game than Burke. And for what it's worth, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers thinks the Utah Jazz point guard has a bright future.
Per Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune, Rivers was impressed by Burke's Dec. 28 performance in Los Angeles:
I don't want to put a comparison on him because that's the worst thing you can do. But there are guards who can score. There are guards who are just play makers. Then there is that rare group that can do both. Chris (Paul) is one of those guys. ... I think Trey Burke is going to be that.
We can probably pump the brakes on a CP3 comparison for now, but Rivers' compliment should indicate how promising Utah's young floor general truly is.
Ultimately, this award is MCW's to lose, and the only way he's likely to surrender it is by simply not playing enough games the rest of the way. If the Sixers keep treating him with kid gloves, Oladipo or Burke could sneak in and steal the award.