Michael Carter-Williams Showing Improvement


Michael Carter-Williams came under fire early in the season but he has been improving steadily of late for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Life has not been easy for Michael Carter-Williams since getting traded to Milwaukee. No player on the Milwaukee Bucks has caught as much flak from fans and critics alike as Michael Carter-Williams has, especially during the rocky start the Bucks have had this season.

However, after getting off to rough start to his 2015-16 season, Carter-Williams has shown signs of turning things around. Over his past 10 games, Carter-Williams has 16.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 boards per game on an efficient 51.1 percent shooting.

His dramatic improvements have helped him to regain his starting role with the team. In addition, no player outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo has arguably been as good as Carter-Williams has in recent games.

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Unlike a few weeks ago, when he was struggling to score on a consistent basis, Carter-Williams is beginning to come into his own as an offensive weapon. First, Carter-Williams is beginning to play to his offensive strengths, driving and working around the basket as much as possible.

Unlike most guards, Carter-Williams boasts the size and skill to be a relatively effective inside scorer. He doesn’t have the same speed or quickness as a John Wall or Russell Westbrook, but Carter-Williams significant height advantage makes him a major mismatch when posting up other guards. This enables him to hit floaters and other shots over his smaller opponents.

He’s also sneaky quick on the drive, and his length allows him to finish around the basket in more creative ways than most guards can.

Dec 12, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) reacts in front of Golden State Warriors guard

Stephen Curry

(30) after a Bucks basket late in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Warriors 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Carter-Williams has also shown an improved ability to read the game on the offensive end. Whenever he’s off the ball, he’s looking to make a play. Whether it’s putting himself in a position to get an outlet pass, cutting to the lane for an easy basket, or hustling to make a play on the boards, Carter-Wiliiams is finding ways to get much more involved with the offense without actually touching the ball.

His improved offensive play was on full display against reigning league MVP Stephen Curry last week. Despite facing one of the better defensive guards in the league, Carter-Williams consistently found ways to exploit Curry on the defensive end. The result was arguably his best performance in a Bucks uniform, contributing 24 points, five boards, and four solid assists.

This doesn’t mean that Carter-Williams isn’t without his shooting limitations. Though he’s beginning to hit more jump shots than before, he’s still struggling to hit any shots from distance, shooting just 32.3 % from the mid-range so far this season. He has hit 38.9% of his shots from 10-14 feet, suggesting some improvement in range. However, he’s still largely dependent on scoring around the basket to get the majority of his points.

In addition to shooting, Carter-Williams is beginning to show signs of improving his passing. Much of this can be attributed to an improved understanding of the offense and developing a chemistry and understanding with his teammates.

Unlike earlier in the season, Carter-Williams is beginning to find ways to get the ball to his teammates in more efficient ways. Though he hasn’t mastered the drive-and-kick, Carter-Williams is passing the ball more efficiently, setting guys up on the break and finding guys who are cutting to the basket. The result has been an uptick in assists to 6.5 per game over his past 10 and 5.5 per game over the entire season.

Dec 16, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) dribbles the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers during an NBA basketball game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

His turnovers do remain relatively high at 3.2 per game. However, this is an improvement over his first two seasons and not dramatically out of line for someone with as high of a usage rate as he’s had.

Carter-Williams has also shown some improvement on the defensive end. Though he’s faced some easier match-ups compared to earlier in the season, Carter-Williams has shown some improvement on defense.

Against Golden State, he found ways to consistently hassle Stephen Curry, pressing him as soon as he touched the ball in the back-court until the time he passed it. Few have been able to contain Curry, but Carter-Williams did a good job to prevent him from getting into any sort of rhythm in both match-ups.

He also had a strong performance against the deadly Brandon Knight/Eric Bledsoe combination in Phoenix. Bledsoe has been among the league’s better guards this season, but he was only able to register 18 points and a single assist in their match-up against the Bucks.

His improvements on defense have not gone unnoticed. After being ranked 78th among 80 qualifying point guards in defensive real plus-minus a month ago at a -3.05 rating, Carter-Williams has improved his defensive real plus minus to -0.90, good for 24th.

The defense of Carter-Williams hasn’t been perfect. He’s still pressing guys too far up the court at times. He also goes over screens too often, even against guys like Rajon Rondo who can’t shoot the ball from range. However, he’s beginning to rekindle some of the defensive ability he showed last season.

Overall, Carter-Williams is beginning to come into his own. Whether he can maintain his momentum remains to be seen. However, he deserves high praise for the marked improvements he’s made over the past month.

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Hopefully, for the Bucks and for Carter-Williams, this is a sign of things to come.