Michael Carter-Williams’ Struggles Continue In The Playoffs


Although they grabbed a big-time win from the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of their first-round matchup this postseason, the Milwaukee Bucks have struggled for large portions of all four games. One interesting factor of the Bucks’ big win on Saturday was who was playing point guard.

Actually, the interesting part is who wasn’t playing point guard.

Michael Carter-Williams was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter while Jerryd Bayless ran the Bucks’ offense. Although Kidd publicly backed and encouraged MCW recently in this article, he went with the better player in the moment. And it worked, clearly:

But it wasn’t just about that one play, as huge as it was. Bayless has outplayed MCW throughout this series, and he earned those crucial final twelve minutes. Their compared advanced statistics from this postseason tell the story fairly well without an analysis, although I never shut up so I’ll give you one anyway.

Jerryd Bayless47815.6.458.4816.
Michael Carter-Williams41368.8.397.1405.925.42.31.414.223.2-0.30.2-0.2-0.060

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2015.

Bayless wins just about every important statistic on this table. Carter-Williams comes out slightly ahead in defensive win shares and steal and block percentage. Thats it. Bayless is a generally inefficient shooter, but he still has an over-six percent lead on MCW’s terrible sub-40 percent true shooting percentage. MCW’s player efficiency rating is just over half of Bayless’, and Bayless’ win shares per 48 are noticeably better too.

Those numbers (PER and WS/48) are fairly fickle, but they do an okay job of telling the story of a player’s overall game. Other key stats that stand out to me here are Bayless’ much higher FTr (free throw attempt rate, the higher the number the more the player gets to the line per shot attempt. Free throws are by far the most efficient form of scoring, especially considering Bayless’ high free throw percentage), his somewhat better assist percentage (even though MCW is seen as more of a pure point guard), and his zero turnovers compared to Carter-Williams’ 14 per 100 possessions.

But that’s just those two player’s sole contributions. These are point guards. Their team needs to play through them. So let’s look at how their teammates played when each point guard was on the floor.

Jerryd BaylessTeamOpponent
On Court78.45846.566.015.513.814.397.3.47153.571.49.59.524.393.2
Off Court124.40345.353.812.111.29.695.0.54554.774.27.110.618.4108.4
On − Off39%+.055+1.2+12.2+3.4+2.6+4.7+2.3-.074-1.2-2.8+2.4-1.1+5.9-15.2

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2015.

Michael Carter-WilliamsTeamOpponent
On Court136.41545.056.412.511.
Off Court66.43947.362.815.414.512.298.4.40952.764.99.811.524.483.7
On − Off67%-.024-2.3-6.4-2.9-3.5-1.2-3.7+.160+2.3+11.3-2.6-1.8-5.5+27.7

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2015.

Yeesh. When Jerryd Bayless is playing point this postseason the Bucks are shooting 45.8 percent from the field. When Michael Carter-Williams is out there, that number drops to 41.5 percent. The team’s assist percentage, steal percentage, block percentage and offensive rating all drop going from Bayless to MCW as well. The turnover percentage does not, which is interesting because Bayless hasn’t turned the ball over at all this series.

The Bulls’ numbers regarding Bayless and MCW are also pretty eye-opening. Chicago shoots damn near ten percent better with Carter-Williams on the floor as opposed to Bayless. Their rebounding percentage, assist percentage, block percentage, turnover percentage and offensive rating all also improve when MCW is on the floor. When Kidd’s project guard of the future is playing point, the Bucks’ defense resembles a China shop to the raging Bulls.

But that’s the real question raised by the use of Bayless in the fourth quarter. Does that somehow imply that Michael Carter-Williams is no longer Jason Kidd’s point guard of the future, despite what he has said? After all, we know Kidd is savvy; he wouldn’t trash anyone on any team, much less an asset on his team.

I think it’s still too early to say definitively that MCW has fallen out of Kidd’s favor, but I also think it’s not impossible that it happens. Kidd is about winning and progress, and if Carter-Williams fails to provide either before next season he may wind up being jettisoned again.

Game 5 in Chicago is huge for Milwaukee for many reasons, but a subtle plot point will definitely be what role MCW plays. I’m certain he’ll get the start; anything less would be too messy. But if he doesn’t see clutch minutes for the second consecutive game, things may not be looking good for Carter-Williams’ in Milwaukee.

After all, there are a lot of point guards hitting free agency this offseason. There are also guys like Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson who may be traded in the near future due to varying situations their franchises have found themselves in.

A few months ago I wouldn’t have expected any dramatic moves like that to occur, but then again that was when near-All-Star Brandon Knight was starting for Milwaukee and I assumed he would be re-signed this offseason.

Anything can happen in regards to personnel moves. Sometimes nothing exciting happens, and sometimes nothing expected happens. But I think we will get at least a hint of what may be to come based on Kidd’s usage of MCW in the upcoming game(s) against Chicago.

I still do believe Carter-Williams has a lot of potential, and its entirely possible that Kidd just really wanted to win a close game to send Milwaukee’s fans home happy. If I had to gamble on it, I would take MCW staying and being groomed as the point guard of the future over the Bucks going with another option, and I wouldn’t have to think too hard about it.

I just don’t believe that it’s a done deal. Nor is much of anything concerning the future of the Bucks, aside from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker being two of a big three currently being assembled in Milwaukee. Anything besides that is uncertain, and will be subject to change based on available opportunities and player performance.

No longer do the Bucks hand out huge contracts to players just for staying on the team. The Bucks’ new ownership made it very clear with the Kidd hiring and the Knight trade that they aren’t afraid to cut their losses for the good of the franchise, and that’s precisely why the Bucks future is so bright right now. No matter if its a tough call or an easy decision, Milwaukee finally appears ready to make the necessary moves to eventually contend for a title.

Soon enough we will find out just what move ends up being necessary concerning Michael Carter-Williams. Let’s just hope the Bucks didn’t deal away their best player in vain.

Next: Jared Dudley: The Godfather Of Grind Grabs A Win

More from Behind the Buck Pass