It’s Time To Cut Michael Carter-Williams Some Slack


I’m not going to be coy here, I’m going to come straight out and say it: I’m not a fan of Michael Carter-Williams’ game, and never really have been.

I’ve been a fan of some of the numbers he’s put up in his short NBA career, but more often than not, when I’ve watched him I haven’t enjoyed the manner in which he achieved those stats.

I don’t like the fact that he’s a point guard that can’t shoot in a league that’s become more and more shot-centric.

I don’t like that he’s a volume guy, who’s inefficient, has no fear of chucking up shots and regularly turns the ball over.

I also don’t like the fact that at times he looks like a race horse with blinders on, unaware of his surroundings and barrelling his way into an alley of shot blockers.

And why am I here? Well, I’m here to defend Michael Carter-Williams.

To get things down to their most basic level, Carter-Williams or MCW as he’s often referred to is a 23-year-old basketball player. The Massachussets native was a good, but not great college prospect, and then landed in the NBA in a weak Draft class that he went on to become the surprise Rookie of the Year from.

So, somewhere along that path it seems expectations for Carter-Williams skewed totally out of proportion. Having found himself entering the league with the Philadelphia 76ers, and one of the weakest most inexperienced rosters the league has seen, MCW got afforded an opportunity that not many rookies receive. That is, he got to play heavy minutes, effectively lead a team, and get his numbers in the process.

Then earlier in the season he was traded to Milwaukee, becoming a replacement for Brandon Knight who was traded to the Phoenix Suns.

Knight is also a 23-year-old, but as often as that has been mentioned in comparisons of the two players and analyses of the trade in the time since, that’s not really important.

Carter-Williams is incredibly raw, and still has a lot to learn. The fact that Philadelphia traded him away is an indication of that in itself. He has plenty of flaws in his game, and they were all known before he arrived in Milwaukee as well.

That’s okay though, because in an NBA sense Carter-Williams is younger than his age makes him appear.

It’s only his second season as a pro, while Knight has been in the league for twice as long as that already. It takes time for young players to learn the game though, so let’s return to the Carter-Williams and Knight comparison one last time.

Let’s not focus in on age and how both men stack up right now, but instead seen as this was a personnel move that was made with the future in mind, see how the duo compared with two years of NBA play under their belts.

1Michael Carter-Williams2014201512812533.7.395.253.428.6995.
2Brandon Knight2012201314113531.9.410.373.432.7433.

As you can see, the results are pretty favorable for Carter-Williams. He averages more points, assists, rebounds and steals than Knight did at the equivalent stage of his career. His field goal and free-throw percentages aren’t too much worse off either.

Then even when you come to a problem area like his turnovers, the situation still isn’t quite as bad as it appears.

Sure, he averages a whole turnover per game more than Knight did after two years of play, but with his higher assist rate that doesn’t tell the whole story. Turnovers only become a problem when put in the context of a player’s scoring or assist tallies. With his higher assist numbers, MCW averages 1.7 assists to every turnover, while Knight only managed 1.4 assists per turnover in his first two seasons.

So, basically that just leaves Knight as a better three-point shooter. I think we can all live with that.

Back in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Knight was a member of a very poor Pistons team, and although he was starting due to that fact, he was in no way ready to be a starting NBA point guard.

The same sentiment applies to Carter-Williams, although the ineptitudes of the 76ers often covered that up. Now that he finds himself on a better team, with a responsibility to play the right way, all of a sudden he doesn’t look so hot though, right?

Well, that probably has something to do with the fact that he’s still learning how to be an NBA player.

This is why it might just be right to be a little bit more forgiving of him than we’re often used to as sports fans.

This is guy who has shown himself to be a willing learner, by all accounts has a great attitude, and is still on a rookie deal, it’s not exactly like he’s draining the franchise.

And I hate to break it to any small handful of you with delusions of grandeur out there, but the Bucks aren’t about contending for titles right now, so why not let Carter-Williams make his mistakes and learn from them.

In last night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Carter-Williams was very much anonymous, and that seemed to lead to a slightly more venomous response than usual from the generally good folk of Bucks’ Twitter.

The unseen part of that story, is that MCW had joined up with the team late in Atlanta yesterday, following his grandfather’s funeral, such was his determination to play.

I’m not here to preach about moral standards, or talk about grief, because that’s not my place. To the same effect, I’m not privy to Michael Carter-Williams’ relationship with his grandfather, and frankly, none of it is my business, so I won’t talk about this specific case of grief in a deeper sense either, although it has clearly impacted MCW.

What all of that does show though is a player with a lot of heart, a young man with character, and a desire to put his team first.

If he falls on his face multiple times in the process of becoming his fully formed professional self, who cares?

How about we step back, support him, and try to see what the best of MCW could be instead though.

Next: Five Things The Milwaukee Bucks Need To Do This Offseason

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