Michael Carter-Williams' Greatest Rookie Moments
When the Philadelphia 76ers took the versatile Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, they tossed him the keys and let him drive the franchise into the next era of Philadelphia basketball. What a ride it's been.
Like every rookie, it hasn't been easy, even when there were times he made it appear so. There was that debacle against the Los Angeles Clippers, a midseason slump and a historic 26-game losing streak sprinkled in.
We know his jumper is still suspect and his shot chart looks like Ric Flair's face after a steel cage match. There are still improvements to be made, but Carter-Williams, a near-lock for NBA Rookie of the Year, has provided some incredible moments in his inaugural season in the City of Brotherly Love.
April 4, 2014 at Boston: 24 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 64% FG, 1 TO (W)
Carter-Williams, a Hamilton, Mass. native, had about 150 friends and family in attendance to witness this dismantling of his hometown Boston Celtics.
"We really wanted this. I think it's a great win for us," said Carter-Williams, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). Henry Sims chipped in a career-high 24 points, but it was Carter-Williams who stole the show.
He was getting his shot any way he wanted against the shorter Boston guards, particularly on pull-ups in and around the restricted area. He was surgical in his probing of the defense, routinely finding the open man cutting toward the rim with a pocket pass. He exercised tremendous patience. Carter-Williams ranks ninth in the NBA in turnovers (234) and in this game he only committed one.
Often criticized for his inconsistency from the field, Carter-Williams' shooting percentage on this night was his second-highest output of the season. Perhaps even more telling, was that he didn't settle for any three-point attempts. He's shooting a woeful 26 percent from beyond the arc on the season, and in this particular matchup, he took what the defense gave him and never tried to do too much.
"As a leader on this team, and the freedom that I have to take shots, I'm going to be expected to make some," Carter-Williams said to Philly.com's Keith Pompey, "and tonight that's what I did."
The signature play came with about six minutes left in the game. Carter-Williams scored on a layup to put the 76ers up five, and on the ensuing defensive possession, he stonewalled Celtics guard Phil Pressey, swiping the ball from him just past half court. He took it the rim, adjusted when Pressey caught up and banked it in to increase the lead to seven.
The Rookie Outduels Rose
Nov. 2, 2013 vs. Chicago: 26 PTS, 4 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL (W)
Three games into his rookie season, Carter-Williams was taking the league by storm. He was slaying dragons. After this game against the Chicago Bulls, when the 76ers pushed their record to 3-0, people in Philadelphia were actually starting to wonder if they would win too many games and lose out on a high draft pick.
This was the first time Derrick Rose faced the 76ers since tearing his ACL in their first-round playoff matchup in 2012. Rose was slow out of the gate, averaging just 14 points on 26 percent from the field to that point. Carter-Williams, on the other hand, was flying high.
With Rose checking him the entire time they were both on the floor, Carter-Williams got to the rim at will against the former MVP. Carter-Williams, even without the aid of a pick at the top of the key, repeatedly blew past Rose en route to the hoop. Even in fast-break situations, where Rose is a certified thoroughbred, Carter-Williams ran stride for stride with him and finished over top of him. He finished with 10 assists, including a behind-the-back pass to Spencer Hawes for the game-winning jumper.
Rose would never regain his MVP form, and he played his last game of the season just three weeks later thanks to another knee injury.
It was just three games into the season, but Carter-Williams had already disposed of LeBron James, John Wall and Derrick Rose. 76ers fans held up signs in the Wells Fargo Center that read, "3-0. That's no Bull."
Triple-Double at the Garden
March 10, 2014 at New York: 23 PTS, 13 REBS, 10 AST, 2 STL, 67% FG (L)
Carter-Williams recorded a triple-double back in December against the Orlando Magic (which we'll get to shortly), but this one came against the rival New York Knicks in the mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden.
Although it came in a loss, Carter-Williams still displayed all the tools that have solidified him among the top rookies in his class. He hustled for loose balls that led to second-chance points. He sparked the fast break, relentlessly pushing the ball after one of his 13 rebounds. He shot 67 percent from the field—a season-high.
The 76ers had no answer for the Knicks on the defensive end, however. New York had four players score at least 20 points, and the team shot 54 percent from the field. Despite Carter-Williams' heroics, it just wasn't enough.
Rookie of the Year Matchup
Dec. 3, 2013 vs. Orlando: 27 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL, 57% FG (W)
Oladipo: 26 PTS, 10 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL
Let's be honest, Michael Carter-Williams will be the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year. It's been his award to lose since the first week of the season, regardless of the team's struggles. He's won Rookie of the Month three times. Even after missing 12 games, no one was able to catch up. Not even Victor Oladipo.
Per NBA.com Stats, Carter-Williams leads all rookies in the following statistical categories: minutes, points, rebounds and steals per game. His efficiency rating of 17.2 is tops among all rookies as well. Not too shabby.
In this particular game, Oladipo and Carter-Williams competed like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Each recorded a triple-double—with nearly identical stat lines—in a rookie showcase for the ages. In the end, it was Carter-Williams and the 76ers who stood victorious.
This game was another display of Carter-Williams' tremendous versatility and potential. Early in the first quarter, defending Arron Afflalo in the post, Carter-Williams stripped him as he went up for a shot and took the rock coast to coast for a layup. He broke Oladipo down off the dribble and outmaneuvered him in the paint for offensive rebounds. He conducted the fast break as if it was a symphony.
In the second overtime, he broke down the defense with his penetration, either finishing at the rim uncontested or dishing off to an open teammate for an easy bucket. Afflalo was the leading scorer with 43 points, but it was the two rookies who gave the fans their money's worth and wrote the first chapter in what should be a longstanding rivalry.
A Debut for the Ages
Oct. 30, 2013 vs. Miami: 22 PTS, 7 REB, 12 AST, 9 STL, 60% FG (W)
Per OddShark.com, the 76ers were 9.5-point underdogs. Everyone was expecting a thrashing, and although there were plenty of those as the season progressed, this game was different.
Earlier that day in the arena, 76ers icon Allen Iverson formally announced his retirement from basketball. Julius Erving, Moses Malone and other legends were all in attendance for the press conference and the game. Instead of them passing the torch to the young point guard, Carter-Williams snatched the torch and ran with it.
His nine steals are the most for any player in their NBA debut, per NBA.com. He posted an offensive rating of 170, a career-high. He was three rebounds and one steal away from a quadruple-double. In a rare display of range, he hit four of his six three-point attempts.
He dominated from the opening tip. He started the game with a breakaway dunk and finished it by sinking two free throws with 8.5 seconds left and the Heat down just two.
With one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, LeBron James had the ball on the wing and took off through the lane. Carter-Williams stepped in, stole the ball from the reigning MVP, igniting the fast break and effectively announcing to the world, "I have arrived."
As 76ers announcer Marc Zumoff put it as the final seconds ticked off the clock, "Simply Amazing."