It didn’t take Michael Carter-Williams long to score his first NBA basket. In fact, it was less than 30 seconds into the Sixers season opener against Miami that he took an errant pass from Roger Mason Jr. the remaining length of the court for a driving dunk.
It was a pretty quick score, and an overall impressive offensive output for a player many thought would struggle adjusting to the offensive end of an NBA game.
Carter-Williams showed little signs of such struggle in his debut, putting up 22 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor, including four three-pointers. His 22 points represent the most in a Sixers debut since recently retired Allen Iverson piled in 30 points against the Bucks in 1996.
Carter-Williams showed flashes of excellent offensive ability, but it is likely that he won’t shoot that well night-in and night-out. While the offensive output was promising, it was the other things he did during his debut that demonstrated his potential to be a productive, even dominant NBA guard.
The Magic Johnson/Jason Kidd comparisons were laughed off at first, but after flirting with a quadruple-double in his first professional appearance, the comparisons don’t seem quite as far-fetched. It is important for a player, especially a point guard, to find other ways to contribute if they’re struggling to score, and Carter-Williams is a multi-tooled talent. If his shot isn’t swishing as smoothly as it was against Miami, he has a myriad of other ways he can contribute.
Carter-Williams is a gifted passer who uses his size to not only see over defenders, but also to drive and dish. He piled up 12 dimes in his debut on a plethora of different passes, some requiring in-paint precision, others quick kicks to the wing for open opportunities. Carter-Williams has excellent court vision; a trait that has been evident since his stint at Syracuse. He is good at predicting where players will be, and his size gives him a distinct advantage over smaller point guards, such as Miami’s Mario Chalmers. If he can continue to use his size, vision and basketball IQ to his advantage, while minimizing his mistakes (the fact that he only had ONE turnover in his debut is a phenomenal feat), he will have the ability to control games without putting up points personally, a la a Rajon Rondo.
His stature also affords him an advantage on the glass, as he is a solid rebounder from the point guard spot. His length allows for him to reach up and around smaller guards to secure rebounds, especially on the defensive end, where he pulled down seven in his debut, and averaged close to five throughout his college career. Carter-Williams’ defensive rebounds are especially dangerous because they can immediately ignite a fast break, as he has the ability to push the ball from end to end and finish the play, either personally, or with an assist. A handful of rebounds should be a common sight in his box scores.
Perhaps the most promising aspect displayed by Michael Carter-Williams during his debut was his defense. He was all over the floor on that end, pressuring the opposing point out past the three point line, popping up in passing lanes, and picking pockets. The box score says nine steals, but his impact on that end stretched beyond stats. He was generally disruptive and made it difficult for Miami to initiate their offense by providing extended pressure. His length is an advantage on this end as well, limiting the field of vision of opposing points and making it difficult for them to make an entry pass. His ability to generate steals can lead directly to fast break opportunities, as demonstrated in his debut. It is great to see him pressuring points out past the three point line, and with his combination of size and speed, there is little reason to believe he shouldn’t be among the league leaders in steals this season. Carter-Williams ability to dominate defensively will be invaluable, especially if he is struggling on the offensive end.
Magic Johnson has already voiced his belief that Carter-Williams will be the Rookie of the Year. Perhaps he sees flashes of himself in the youngster, knowing that the best point guards find ways to contribute outside of scoring. It is yet to be seen if Carter-Williams will be the first Sixers since A.I. to take home that hardware, but with his multi-faceted skill set, Carter-Williams has the opportunity to develop into a productive, and dare I say dominant, NBA player.