VIDEO: The Spotlight is shined on rookie phenom Michael Carter-Williams
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Is it too early to just go ahead and hand Michael Carter-Williams the Rookie of the Year trophy? Maybe, but who would argue?
It’s usually way too early to play the re-draft game. We typically reserve that for a couple years down the road to re-evaluate the order of the picks. The superb all-around play of the Philadelphia 76ers first-year point guard in his first 11 games has been as special as it is confounding as to how enough teams didn’t see this coming from a 6-foot-6 prospect that would allow him to drift all the way to No. 11.
No. 1 would be more like it. OK, so the Cleveland Cavaliers already have Kyrie Irving (and we won’t get into Anthony Bennett‘s start here), so No. 1 was out of the question anyway. But Orlando? The pick of Victor Oladipo at No. 2 was a solid choice, argued by no one, but the Magic are trying to train him as a point guard and there’s going to be some lumps along the way.
The Utah Jazz took Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the 6-foot college player of the year, at No. 9. We’ll have to wait a bit to make any declarations on Burke considering he broke his right index finger the third game into the preseason and has played in just two games, both coming off the bench, although that could change as early as tonight when the Jazz play at Oklahoma City (7 p.m. ET, League Pass).
Carter-Williams has simply soared above all other rookies and is a primary reason why the rebuilding 76ers shocked the league with a 4-2 start and 4-4 before he got hurt. In the four games he missed, Philly went 1-3.
He had the Sixers, still a surprising 6-9, scrapping Saturday night in a 106-98 road loss at the East-leading Pacers, going for 29 points, six rebounds, three assists and seven steals. The last stat, the steals, has been an eye-opener all season. He’s got 12 in the last two games and Carter-Williams started his career by nabbing nine against the Miami Heat.
He’s on pace to set an NBA rookie record for steals. Carter-Williams already has 33 — 20 more than Oladipo, who is second among rookies — which puts him on pace to finish with 234 if he plays in all of the Sixers’ remaining 67 games (he missed four games already with a foot injury). Dudley Bradley holds the rookie record of 211 in 1979-80 (Ron Harper had 209 and Mark Jackson had 205 in the 1980s).
At 3.0 spg, Carter-Williams already ranks among the league’s top thieves. He’s tied atop the NBA with Ricky Rubio in steals per game, and in total steals he ranks third, one behind Chris Paul, who has played three more games, and 12 behind Rubio, who has played in four more games.
Among rookies, none come close to Carter-Williams’ across-the-board production. He leads all first-year players in scoring at 17.3 ppg; Oladipo is next at 12.8 ppg. His 7.4 apg are tops with Milwaukee’s Nate Wolters next at 4.7. His 63 total rebounds rank third among rookies and tops among guards. His 10 blocks rank third among rooks; the top three are all centers.
Perhaps most impressive about Carter-Williams is simply the smoothness and poise of his game. He’s not rattled by the competition and he demonstrated that in the first game of his career against the two-time champion Heat with a near quadruple-double: 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. Against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls he went for 26 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals.
He’s already produced three double-doubles, and as he improves his shooting percentage (40.0 from the floor through 11 games, although 36.2 percent from 3-point range), his scoring average will rise. He posted consecutive games of shooting at least 50 percent from the floor for the first time this season in his last two games.
Perhaps it is too early to simply anoint Carter-Williams as the Rookie of the Year, but the young man groomed two seasons at Syracuse is certainly stating his case with authority.