What's Next for Michael Carter-Williams After Winning Rookie of the Year Award?

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What's Next for Michael Carter-Williams After Winning Rookie of the Year Award?
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Considering he was passed on 10 different times in a weak 2013 NBA draft, it looks like the Philadelphia 76ers got away with robbery by grabbing Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11 overall. 

Carter-Williams is the 2014 Rookie of the Year, having averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game this season. Carter-Williams put up big numbers in a lineup without much talent to play off. It's safe to say he earned each point, assist, rebound and steal.

But with early production comes expectations, and in year No. 2, Carter-Williams will be expected to make some progress in the areas he struggled with as a freshman.  

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Philadelphia's lineup should look a whole lot sleeker in 2014-15, assuming center Nerlens Noel enters the rotation and whoever Philadelphia drafts (they have two lottery picks and five second-rounders) can play right away. Though the Sixers won't be competing for a playoff position, Carter-Williams should have a few extra weapons to run with.

And that's where he appears to be the most dangerous—when he's running and getting out in that open floor. Philadelphia finished No. 1 in the NBA in pace this season, a likely sign of more running to come as the Sixers' management and coaching staff tries to build this team's identity. 

At this point, that identity starts with Carter-Williams, the team's most valuable on-court asset, given the uncertainty surrounding Noel and the underwhelming talent that fills out the roster. 

However, the Sixers' most valuable asset in general is their projected top-three pick this June, which could be used on Kansas' Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, or Duke's Jabari Parker. You'd like to think Philadelphia would be most interested in Wiggins and Parker, two forwards who can slide right between Carter-Williams and Noel. 

And both would make strong partners in crime for Carter-Williams, who could use an easy-bucket target (Wiggins) or an option to go to in the half court (Parker). 

Carter-Williams is a good-looking passer and a crafty playmaker off the dribble. Of players who played at least 41 games, or half the regular season, he finished No. 14 in the NBA in assist opportunities per game, a stat which measures the passes a player makes to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot that if made would be an assist. 

He's shown he can create and set up teammates for shots—they just haven't converted a high percentage of them.

With a few more shot-makers, scorers and finishers in the lineup, Carter-Williams should see that assist average increase over the next few seasons. 

However, whether Carter-Williams is playing with a group of scrubs or a couple of All-Stars, shooting consistency and accuracy is completely on him.

This was Carter-Williams' glaring weakness at Syracuse, and it remains his glaring weakness heading into his sophomore year in Philadelphia. 

Take a look at how poorly he fared as a shooter this past season:

Shooting
Type of Jumper Shooting Percentage
Pull-Up Jumper .339
Pull-Up Three-Pointers .275
Catch-and-Shoot Jumpers .288
Catch-and-Shoot Three-Pointers .262

NBA.com

Unless you're the exception, like Rajon Rondo, there's only so far you can go without a jumper. 

Of course, it could take time—Washington Wizards' point guard John Wall hit just three three-pointers in 66 games back in 2011-12. This year, he nailed 108 at a respectable 35.1 percent clip in 82 games. 

All we're looking for next year is a step in the right direction. Nobody should be expecting Carter-Williams to evolve into a sniper, but it would be nice to see him boost his pull-up and long-range percentages to above 30 percent. 

As for his decision-making, it's going to be unrealistic to expect Carter-Williams to stop turning it over in the near future. As a ball-dominant 23-year-old playing in an uptempo system alongside rookies, he's still going to cough it up more than your average point guard. 

But for Carter-Williams to grow, he's going to ultimately need a team around him. This isn't going to play out the way it did for Damian Lillard, the 2013 Rookie of the Year who suddenly became one of the biggest impact players in the league a season later. 

Based on Philadelphia's rebuilding plan, which appears to have a three-to-five-year timetable, slow but steady improvement is a more reasonable request of Carter-Williams.  

Still, Sixers fans should be excited for the future, given the promise he's shown and the upside that's attached to a 6'6" ball-handler who can pass, score and defend. 

"By opening night, it was clear to us that Michael belonged," Sixers President Sam Hinkie said to the Associated Press (via USA Today). "This award marks a lifetime of hard work. … We congratulate him on this unique achievement and look forward to helping him put in the work necessary to garner even greater success in the future."

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