When the Philadelphia 76ers took Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, no one was really sure what to expect. The 6’6” point guard out of Syracuse had been on general manager Sam Hinkie’s radar, but no one was sure how high on the team’s draft board Carter-Williams really was, especially after the Jrue Holiday trade that landed the team Nerlens Noel.
After an electrifying debut against the Miami Heat that saw MCW record 22 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, pretty much everyone saw what Hinkie and the Sixers saw in the talented 22-year-old. Carter-Williams would go on to win the Rookie of the Month honors three different times, record two triple-doubles and finish his rookie season averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.MCW’s debut season would culminate with him winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
Somehow, he did all that while playing for one of the worst teams in the league. In addition to everything else a newcomer to the NBA has to deal with, MCW had to cope with the scrutiny of the Philadelphia sports media and losing almost every night, including the historic 26-game losing streak that will forever be linked to him and his career.
And now with the trade of Thaddeus Young to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Carter-Williams heads into his sophomore season as the undisputed leader of this team. He will be the player everyone will be looking towards for guidance as the 76ers head into another difficult season, what everyone is already calling Tank 2.0.
MCW is already aware of the change in his role on the roster, telling Michael Kaskey-Biomain of Philly.com
“I think regardless of who is on the team, I have to be a leader out there, give direction to the new guys and really bring the team together.”
So with all of that going on, will MCW be able to prove his rookie campaign wasn’t just a fluke, a case of a good player on a very bad team? The odds say yes, he will.
Unlike most rookies, Carter-Williams has a composure and steadiness about him that most younger players lack. Part of this is no doubt due to his mother’s influence, who is also his manager, and part is from having to go through the crucible that was the 2013-14 76ers season.
To take a beating like that, night after night, knowing it isn’t going to get any better any time soon will harden your edges and give you a sense of perspective that other rookies just won’t have.
As far as MCW’s actual game, there a couple of areas that he needs to improve, including working on his jump shot and mid-range game as well as his commitment to defense.
In terms of his defensive game, he just needs to dedicate himself to it more, especially in the paint where he seemed to get roughed up quite a bit last season. The addition of Nerlens Noel should help this greatly as MCW won’t feel like he is out there flying solo all night.
Also, if Carter-Williams can add some bulk to his still slight frame it should give him some added presence on the floor that will make others give him a bit more respect before they drive the lane.
Offensively, Carter-Williams’ jump shot has been a work in progress from the moment he joined the Sixers and will continue to be reworked and refined as long as head coach Brett Brown is around. It is just going to take time to fix the issues with it and as his jump shot improves, so will his mid-range game, with more shots falling and fewer becoming turnovers and bricks.
Unfortunately, this offseason Carter-Williams missed a chance to work on all of this due to surgery he had to repair the labrum of his right shoulder last May. And while he is making progress, the Sixers have not yet cleared him for full five-on-five contact drills.
Which means a golden opportunity to work on his game this offseason was lost.
But it would appear Carter-Williams isn’t letting that stop him. In a move that had Sixers fan so excited they could barely see straight, he tweeted out this photo early Wednesday morning.
— Michael Carter-Willi (@MCW1) September 3, 2014
Yes, that’s MCW and Nerlens Noel with the Sixers 2014 first-round pick Joel Embiid, scrimmaging and working out.
A sign of what’s to come for the 76ers? Hopefully, but only if Carter-Williams continues to develop and improve his game.
And everything points to to him being able to do that and overcome any sophomore slump on his way to becoming the All-Star the 76ers know he can be.