NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Michael Carter-Williams
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Mike Schmitz
May 3, 2013
Michael Carter-Williams is a point guard with great size, passing skills and creativity, who lacks much in the ways of consistent scoring and decision-making ability. How does he stack up in this draft class?
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Playing just 10 minutes per game as a freshman behind top-five NBA draft pick Dion Waiters and All-Big East point guard Scoop Jardine, Michael Carter-Williams was handed the reins to Syracuse's offense as a sophomore and led the Orange to the NCAA Tournament Final Four. He finished in the top five in the NCAA and #1 amongst draft prospects in assists and steals, establishing himself as one of the more unique players in college basketball and also one of the most controversial amongst NBA scouts.
Carter-Williams stands out first and foremost with the tremendous size he brings to the point guard position, standing a legit 6-5 in shoes. He does not have a great wingspan (measured also at 6-5 at the LeBron James Academy in 2011), but is an extremely fluid and agile guard who handles the ball elegantly, is dynamic in transition, and can create his own shot effectively in the half-court.
Not a prolific scorer, Carter-Williams averages just 13.5 points per-40 minutes, which rates 62nd among the 75 college players in our top-100 prospect rankings. Shooting just 44% from 2-point range and 29% for 3, he's also not particularly efficient, as his 49% True Shooting Percentage ranks 73rd out of the 75 college prospects who likely have a realistic chance of being drafted this June.
What Carter-Williams lacks in his ability to put points put on the board, he makes up for with his passing skills and creativity with the ball in his hands. An extremely smooth guard with strong ball-handling skills, a solid first step, the ability to change speeds, and an array of hesitation moves, Carter-Williams can create his own shot driving left or right and gets into the lane with incredibly long strides that most college defenders simply couldn't stay in front of.
He's a very unselfish player, highly creative and blessed with terrific court vision, able to make both simple and flashy passes, and seeing the floor extremely well thanks to his terrific size and the unique angles he has at his disposal because of it. With his ability to see over the top of the defense, he makes beautiful skip passes to both sides of the floor and is extremely effective at finding open shooters spotting up on the wing, or big men flashing into the paint for lobs. Generally speaking, he does an excellent job of putting his teammates in position to score, which is exactly what a classic pass-first point guard is supposed to do.
Where Carter-Williams can get into trouble at times is when defenses force him to score on his own. He struggles to finish the shots he creates for himself inside the lane, making just 49% of his half-court attempts directly at the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology, and not drawing a great deal of fouls either. He doesn't appear to have great touch around the basket and has a tendency to shoot too many difficult floaters inside the lane instead of getting all the way to the rim and finishing with a layup, which hurts his percentages quite a bit. He also doesn't possess great strength in either his upper or lower body, making it difficult for him to finish in traffic considering he's not incredibly explosive vertically.
That perhaps wouldn't be as much of an issue if Carter-Williams was an effective perimeter shooter, something he struggled with all season long. His shooting mechanics aren't bad, but his jumper simply doesn't go in very often, partially due to poor shot-selection. Nearly a third of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, but he was able to convert just 29% of them, being almost equally as bad with his feet set (28%) as he was shooting off the dribble (26%) this season. Despite his struggles as a shooter, Carter-Williams wasn't deterred, as he continued to fire away all year long, often with mixed results, leading Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim to say half-jokingly: "I can't cook, but if I believed in my cooking like Michael Carter-Williams believes in his shooting, I would win the show 'Iron Chef'. I would win and I can't boil water."
Carter-Williams' questionable decision making skills showed up in other areas as well this season, both on and off the court. He's very turnover prone for one, coughing the ball up on 26% of his possessions this season, third worst of any of the players in our top-100 prospect rankings. He can be very careless, struggles handling under pressure at times, and has a tendency to get too fancy and force tough passes unnecessarily, sometimes at the most inopportune moments.
Off the court, Carter-Williams made at least one baffling decision as well, as he was reportedly involved in a shoplifting incident at a department store where he was caught stealing a bathrobe and gloves and was forced to pay a fine.
One area where Carter-Williams may not have had the opportunity to show everything he can do at the college level is on the defensive end. Jim Boeheim's teams play zone exclusively, which they were extremely successful at this season, ranking as the 5th best defense in college basketball according to KenPom, but leaving some question marks about how he might fare in man to man situations. With that said, there's enough film accumulated of Carter-Williams being isolated one on one against an opposing ball-handler (with the shot clock running down or otherwise) to give us a pretty good idea of how he might fare here down the road.
While Carter-Williams does not possess a huge wingspan, his combination of terrific size, quick feet and excellent instincts make him extremely difficult for opposing guards to deal with, and give him the versatility to defend multiple positions at the NBA level. Pesky, alert, and extremely intense, Carter-Williams puts great pride on this end of the floor, getting low in a stance and putting excellent pressure on the ball when called upon. He has phenomenal instincts jumping into the passing lanes and a real knack for simply stepping into the right place at the right time to take the ball away, always lurking in the background hunting for opportunities to stick his hands in. It's no surprise that Carter-Williams ranks #1 among top-100 prospects in steals per-40 minutes, and by a fairly large margin (20%) at that.
It will be interesting to see how Carter-Williams is evaluated in this draft class, which is not particularly strong at his position. Although he has some glaring flaws in terms of his perimeter shooting and all-around scoring ability, his size, passing skills and defensive prowess could make him a very interesting prospect for a team drafting in the lottery, even if the extent of his upside is still up for debate. While Carter-Williams is a sophomore in terms of college class, he will turn 22 before his NBA rookie season begins, and is basically the same age as fellow point guard prospects C.J. McCollum, Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Canaan, all seniors.
The biggest question NBA teams will have to ask themselves is whether he can develop into a good enough scorer to keep defenses honest, as he's clearly extremely talented in virtually every other area. If he's able to improve his perimeter shooting, he could emerge as a solid piece for a team to build around down the road.
Physicals Height: 6' 4" Weight: 221 lbs. Birthday: 12/01/1991 24 Years Old Teams: High School: Life Center Academy Previous Team: Thunder , PRO Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #4 in 2012 Draft by the Cavaliers Positions: Current: SG, NBA: SG, Possible: PG/SG Quick Stats: 10.0 Pts, 2.8 Rebs, 2.0 Asts
Physicals Height: 6' 8" Weight: 245 lbs. Birthday: 12/30/1984 31 Years Old Teams: High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary Previous Team: Cavaliers , PRO Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2003 Draft by the Cavaliers Positions: Current: SF, NBA: SF, Possible: SF Quick Stats: 25.0 Pts, 7.1 Rebs, 6.5 Asts