After winning the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year Award Michael Carter-Williams looked like the Philadelphia 76ers next great guard, until he was traded.
Michael Carter-William’s NBA career could not have started any better. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Carter-Williams 11th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, pairing him with former AAU teammate Nerlens Noel, who the team selected five picks earlier. For MCW, this was an ideal landing spot, because the 76ers had just traded their starting point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel and an additional first round pick.
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Even though the 76ers were one of the worst teams in the NBA that season, it didn’t stop Carter-Williams from having a breakout rookie campaign, averaging 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 34.5 minutes in 70 games.
With Noel missing the entirety of his rookie campaign, the 76ers only won 19 games, and at one point lost an NBA record 26 straight games. MCW on the other hand, led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, and assists, and ultimately won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Expectations could not have been higher going into MCW’s second season. He was viewed universally as the 76ers point guard of the future, and could have been the face of the franchise for decades to come, at least until February 19, 2015.
While he was still considered by many to be a budding star in the league, Sam Hinkie wasn’t his first draft pick’s biggest fan. Even though Michael Carter-Williams was a budding star in the league he was far from a perfect player.
After spending two years in college, Carter-Williams was drafted by the 76ers at the age of 22 making him one of the oldest players in his draft class. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does typically mean that his body is done growing, and therefore he had a much lower ceiling than a 19 year old draft pick.
Michael Carter-Williams was also never a consistent outside shooter, only averaging 29 percent from the 3-point range in his sophomore season at Syracuse, and an abysmal 26 percent from 3-point range in his rookie season as a pro.
While players can typically get incrementally better at shooting with practice, when coupled with his age, this was simply a risk that Hinkie wasn’t comfortable taking, so on February 19, 2015 MCW was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the Lakers protected first round pick, much to the displeasure of Brett Brown, then team CEO Scott O’Neil, and MCW himself.
Since then, Michael Carter- Williams stock has taken a free fall. In his first full season as the Bucks starting point guard, MCW saw a decline in his average points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game. To make matters worse, the team ultimately benched the former Rookie of the Year in favor of current 76er Jerryd Bayless.
After less than two seasons in Milwaukee, the Bucks ultimately decided to cut their losses and trade MCW to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell, a bench player whom had only averaged 5.3 points per game in 213 games as a Bull.
Michael Carter-Williams has been a shadow of his former self in his first season with the Bulls. The once Rookie of the Year has only appeared in 35 of a possible 71 games, and is averaging less than half the points, assists and rebounds he averaged in his rookie campaign. According to ESPN’S Real Plus-Minus, MCW has a -2.51 offensive rating for the season and a -1.66 overall rating, ranking him at 40th among point guards.
To make matters worse for Michael, the Bulls recently traded for Cameron Payne, a 22-year-old point guard who spend the last two seasons backing up Russell Westbrook with the Oklahoma Thunder. Though Payne’s stats aren’t much better than MCW’s this season, he is a marginally better 3-point shooter, and is considered by many to be an extremely athletic prospect. And for a team that has been riding a near constant point guard carousel this season, upside is extremely valuable. While the team really doesn’t have a surefire heir apparent at point guard on their roster, it appears that this season could very well be MCW’s last in the Windy City.
When the 76ers traded Michael Carter-Williams at the 2015 trade deadline, it was a very unpopular move in the city of Philadelphia. It seemed like everyone but Sam Hinkie believed that the team had given away a franchise player for a pick in that still hasn’t materialized. However, in hindsight, this may have been the best move of Sam Hinkie’s entire tenure with the 76ers.
Having guards who can shoot the three is essential in the modern NBA, especially on a team with Ben Simmons’ passing prowess, so the player the 76ers draft using the Los Angeles Lakers’ draft pick should hold immense value to the team going forward.
Hinkie took a flawed player with inflated stats from playing on a bad team and traded him for a now top-3 protected draft pick that will materialize either in this draft or the next. While the 76ers are still without a true star point guard, this season’s draft is stacked with point guards who can shoot, a skill that MCW simply didn’t possess.
While I do wish Michael Carter-Williams well, as he seems like a good guy who has been dealt a poor hand, it’s nearly impossible to think that the team would be better off now, or in five years with MCW as its point guard.