The 2013 draft class is fondly remembered as one of the weakest in recent memory. Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetekounmpo’s rise to stardom has only partially made up for the mediocrity of this class, spearheaded by the infamous Anthony Bennett. One of them really entered the league with a bang: We all remember how Michael Carter-Williams torched the Heat posting a near triple-double in his very first game and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award. He was a do-it-all triple double threat who dominated on defense with his great length. But it has become quiet about him since he was traded to the Bucks and later to Chicago. Today we can only wonder about his decline from one of the most talked-about young Point Guards to a merely average player.
A promising start
Carter-William’s didn’t win the ROY award just because he was part of a weak draft class, he would have also won it in many other years due to his stellar play: In 34.5 minutes he averaged nearly 17 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. A scouting report coming out of Syracuse would read something like this: Point Guard with great length, good rebounder, strong defense and outstanding passing. But there are two things that stain a seemingly ideal picture. One is his age, he was already 22 after only two seasons at college, while the Greek Freak came into the league at 19. The other is his terrible jump shot making him a non-threat from three. Both are likely to have lead the Sixers to trade him to Milwaukee as they started to collect the assets of the future with an utterly useless team. Apparently the best rookie of 2014 was not part of the plans for a brighter tomorrow in Philadelphia. Of course, critics claimed that he was just an average player amassing stats on an oddly poor team.
To Chicago via Milwaukee
With the Bucks, Michael Carter-Williams found himself in the midst of a youth movement again. Himself, Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and John Henson shared not only their young age, but also their terrific length and arm span. With this massive collection of athleticism, the young Bucks posted one of the league’s best defenses and went to the 2015 playoffs where they lost to the Bulls. In Milwaukee, Carter-Williams did not play the dominant role he had played with the Sixers and was benched in favor of Jarred Bayless in his second year there. Especially his less than impressive three-point shooting made him lose the starting spot as the Bucks tried to improve their sputtering offense which ended the season rated 26th. Eventually the team decided to move on from their Point Guard at the start of this season and moved him to the Bulls receiving Shooting Guard Tony Snell. Whether Snell will solve their shooting miscues remains to be seen and while Carter-Williams has sat out most of the season with a knee injury, his role in Chicago will likely be even smaller than it was in his last season in Milwaukee.
Back to normal
After a furious start in Philadelphia Michael Carter-Williams has certainly not lived up to the expectations posed by a stellar rookie year. In fact, all of his numbers have declined every year – definitely a trend untypical of a player who is still on his first contract. Also a fact worth noting is the dimension of his trade value: In 2014 Philadelphia received a first-round pick in exchange for the Point Guard and Milwaukee got a role player in Snell. Both returns do not resemble the typical package you would offer for a Rookie of the Year. But honestly Carter-William’s apparent decline is not much of a surprise. In today’s NBA Point Guards need to come with at least a decent shooting stroke. As his shot has shown little improvement during his career, teams realized that he was never going to be a fully equipped floor-general. Add in his age and you have a player whose potential to excel at pro level was limited from the beginning on. The Sixers’ move to trade him away while he was still the reigning ROY is understandable, since a player who came out of college without any upside left was a mismatch with their talent-gathering approach. After all, his regression might not be a tragic decline, but rather a return to his normal level of play which would have been his standard without the outlier that was his rookie year. Michael Carter-Williams is far from a bust, he is an average player, with the doubtful blessing to have had an extraordinary first year.