Michael Carter-Williams Is Better Than You Think He Is


It’s old news now, but it’s still far from water under the bridge. The Milwaukee Bucks raised more than a few eyebrows when they traded away their leading scorer and floor general Brandon Knight at last season’s trade deadline, as question marks surrounded the ability of his replacement Michael Carter-Williams.

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Carter-Williams was coming off a season where he had been named Rookie of the Year, was long and tall to fit in with the profile of the Bucks’ roster, and in spite of his young years he had been the given the chance to log considerable NBA minutes.

So why wouldn’t they do such a deal, and didn’t trading for Carter-Williams even give them a point guard with a higher ceiling of potential?

Well, the knocks have come quick and fast at the 23-year-old.

He can’t shoot. He turns the ball over too much. He’s not assertive. Then most of all as a combination of these factors comes criticism such as, he’s not the right point guard for this Bucks team. Or even worse, the suggestion that he’s just not actually that good.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Carter-Williams is better than you probably think he is, and that comes in spite of areas where there’s both a need to improve, and the time to do so.

Let’s begin by looking at the season which has just finished. Between his time in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, Carter-Williams would finish the regular season averaging 14.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds.

That makes him one of only six players to have achieved marks of 14 points, six assists, five rebounds or more.

The other five men (LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe and Tyreke Evans) achieved those numbers in a combined average of 35.2 minutes a night, while Carter-Williams did so in easily the least minutes at 32.6 per game.

Combined with 1.7 steals a game, a number only bettered among point guards by Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, and Carter-Williams basic per game numbers come out pretty impressively.

Digging a little deeper into advanced stats, Carter-Williams’ weaknesses begin to show up a little more, although the Bucks’ point guard still compares favorably to many of his peers.

Looking at advanced statistics for point guards who played over 30 minutes per game last season, Carter-Williams finds himself in some very elite company.

26.8 percent of Milwaukee’s offensive possessions are used by Carter-Williams when he’s on the court, an indicator that the quality of his play is likely to have a great influence on the Bucks overall. Only Westbrook, Curry and Derrick Rose use more among point guards.

Carter-Williams has the third highest rebound percentage at his position too, only trailing Westbrook and Ricky Rubio.

Sixth place among point guards in assist percentage is nothing to turn your nose up at either.

Most important and impressive of the lot is probably his defensive rating though. The Bucks only allow 98.3 points per 100 defensive possessions when the 23-year-old is on the floor, a mark that only John Wall and Curry can claim to have bettered.

So, only entering into his third season as a professional, Carter-Williams has shown himself to be a top-class defender, an excellent rebounder and a very good passer.

That alone should be the cause for incredible excitement.

Sure, in areas such as pace and shooting Carter-Williams could do with significant improvements, but I’m not so sure that they’re as crippling to the Bucks as they would have been if he was still with the 76ers.

The Bucks never traded for Carter-Williams to be the team’s primary scorer, and if he can excel in his areas of primary responsibility as such, why should it really matter?

Milwaukee can’t afford for MCW to be an offensive liability, but while he’s averaging near 15 points per game it’s hard to level that accusation at him.

Maybe it’s time for the conversation to move away from Carter-Williams needing to improve his shooting to be a good NBA point guard, to focus instead on the fact that if he does figure it out, he could be a great one.

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