Rookies have been hitting the proverbial wall for decades in the NBA. It mostly stems from their bodies simply not being able to handle all the games coupled with the packed schedule and all the travel. In a high school season you play about 20 regular season games and then maybe an additional 10 games or so depending on how far you go into the state tournament. In the NCAA you play around 30 games and then if you’re lucky you play six more during March Madness.
So, for most Rookie of the Year candidates, like Michael Carter-Williams, your body is used to between 30-40 games in a basketball season. For MCW that number might be even less. He played two seasons at Syracuse and was only a major contributor in his last season there where he played 40 games and averaged 35.2 minutes per game. The season before he only played 26 games and played 10.3 minutes per night.
Fast forward to his rookie year and he’s playing 34.3 minutes a night and has already played in 49 games (he’s missed 12 games due to injury); and there are still 21 games left! No wonder these guys hit a wall.
Imagine yourself a world-class sprinter who specializes in the 100-yard dash. Your body trains itself to use up any and all energy for those 100 yards. Now, out of nowhere you decide to take on the 200-yard dash and your body just isn’t ready; there’s no way you will keep up with other world-class 200-yard sprinters that have trained their bodies for that specific race. This is the conundrum lottery picks have — they are expected to come in and produce right away at a high level and once game number 40 or so comes around, the legs start to get tired.
Here are Carter-Williams’ statistics so far this season — and they are pretty good for a rookie.
Those types of numbers are usually good enough to be a shoo-in for the Rookie of the Year, but there are other factors that analytics can now show that maybe weren’t as highlighted in the past.
Pay specific attention to the shooting splits shown there. The field goal percentage places him 21st out of all qualified point guards in the NBA this season, the 3-point percentage puts him 44th, which is dead last for qualified point guards, and his free throw percentage has him 28th, which is also good enough for last place for qualified PGs. Needless to say the shooting is not a pretty thing up to this point.
The problem with these numbers is that they are getting worse as the season goes on. Carter-Williams played in 42 games before the All-Star break with splits of .396/.291/.704 — again, no bueno.
Post All-Star break the Sixers have only played seven games but check the new splits for MCW; .388/.125/.681! Eeek! This is the rookie wall if translated into numbers for MCW. It’s an ugly reality for most rookies, but with all trends this will change if he continues to work at his craft. For now, the Sixers have to really attempt to weather the storm and hang on to that floating piece of wood as long as possible.
The issue is we already know the ending to this story…they eventually lose their grip and fall into the deep blue abyss.