The Value of Michael Carter-Williams in the Post


There are a number of words one could use to describe Michael Carter-Williams’ tenure thus far as a Buck. Personally, I’ll go with frustrating.

It’s been frustrating mostly because it seems he hasn’t managed to both find and adapt to his new role on the team. Sometimes, we’ll see glimpses of great court vision coupled with unselfishness. Other times, though, he seems to drift mentally and resort to hero ball (the same hero ball Knight was castigated for when he was here).

Despite his putrid 38.1 eFG% with the Bucks, he is third on the team in FGA per 36 minutes at 14.1. While this is certainly an improvement for most of us who are in the “we need a point guard who defers to Giannis, Jabari, and Middleton” camp, it still leaves some unselfishness to be desired.

For comparison, there 80 players in the league who have played at least 1000 minutes this season and have shot as frequently as MCW has with the Bucks; 0 have as bad an eFG% as his 38.1 (per Here is his company:

TotalsPer 36 MinutesShooting
2Kobe BryantLAL12077.921.35.93.823.3.373.401.293.411.813.4770.2
3DeMar DeRozanTOR19586.917.03.52.320.5.410.422.273.421.829.5063.4
4Gary NealTOT11935.715.
5Trey BurkeUTA22485.815.85.21.915.3.371.405.316.431.761.4572.5
6Dion WaitersTOT19876.
7Kemba WalkerCHO19366.516.75.41.718.7.391.421.315.436.830.4944.7

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/5/2015.

But in Wednesday’s game against Chicago, he seemed to find a role he should presumably excel in: The post.

Throughout most of the game, Carter-Williams found himself guarded by the 6’0″ Aaron Brooks. Coach Kidd took the 6 inch advantage MCW had and game-planned completely around it.

At first, Tom Thibodeau didn’t seem to think Carter-Williams in the post would pose much of a threat offensively. Consequently, we saw layups and fouls like these:

However, after MCW had his way with his undermatched opponent in the first half, the Bulls started to send extra help.

Here, Pau Gasol shades over for help. This leaves an open Zaza, which forces Mike Dunleavy to leave Giannis to help. By the time Giannis has the ball, both the would-be rim protector (Gasol) and Dunleavy are out of position and are forced to foul. This is all set up by the mere presence of MCW in the post.

In this play, all eyes are on MCW and you can see the defense gravitate towards him. Just as important, Giannis’ cut forces Joakim to leave Erasn to deny Giannis the ball. By the time the ball leaves Michael’s hands, it’s too late for Noah and Ersan knocks down a very open jumper.

This advantage dictated the game so much to the point in which Giannis was actually held out in place of OJ Mayo until the 1:40 mark in the 4th. I know us Bucks fans want our favorite Greek Freak playing 45 minutes per game and what not, but this was the right thing to do in a game like this. Here’s a play that shows why OJ was a better fit for a MCW post up play:

First, Carter-Williams initiates his post up. Again, at this point in the game, Thibodeau has decided to start throwing extra attention his way; Joakim helps Brooks.
Joakim’s help opens up a passing lane to Zaza, which forces Jimmy Butler and E’Twaun Moore to pick him up.

This results in a ball swing to Mayo, who swings it to Middleton. He then pump-fakes and blows past a Butler closeout into a wide-open lane for a layup.

Here’s the play in full speed:

As much as we all love Giannis, this play doesn’t happen if he’s in there instead of OJ. The defense wouldn’t respect his three-point jumper enough for Moore to closeout on him, and the lane isn’t nearly as open as it was.

This is a classic example of the deception of a box score. A casual fan who missed the game might look at say “Well, MCW had a good game but he was obviously only looking for his own shots; he only had two assists!” But this couldn’t be further from the truth. As we see in a play like this, though he doesn’t get a stat for it, the open layup Middleton got was a direct result from his presence in the post.

But it’s important to remember that most starting NBA point guards are not in fact six feet tall. As impressive as Carter-Williams looked in the post, a significant amount of that success relied on his height advantage in the post; he won’t have that every night.

Still though, his height is proving to be one of his most valuable assets. Since he’ll be starting most games as a Buck alongside Khris Middleton, who also has proven to be strong in the post, opposing teams won’t be able to simply switch their SG onto him, as the Bucks will simply use Middleton’s height advantage in the post instead.

Carter-Williams still has a lot to figure out on the court. He still needs to work on deferring to teammates, not pounding the air out of the ball, and (*gasp*) his shot. Hopefully a full offseason of work with Giannis, Jabari, Khris, and Coach Kidd will prove to be exactly what he needs to figure things out.

For this year, though, we can look forward to his play in the post. It may prove to valuable if the Bucks manage to draw the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs as he’ll see a similar advantage against 6’0″ Kyle Lowry. Greivis Vasquez in the starting lineup anyone?

Next: Time To Cut Michael Carter-Williams Some Slack

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