If Michael Carter-Williams
hopes to excel in the NBA, he'll need to up his jump shot. (Al Tielemans/SI)
Michael Carter-Williams will be a complicated evaluation for NBA teams. He appears to be a late lottery pick who has many tempting traits along with some red flags after one full season as a college starter.
On the plus side, Carter-Williams clearly has the size, handle and court vision to project well as an NBA point guard. Regardless of the level of Division I competition, you don't see many players reel off five straight double-digit assist games. He's looking to pass but also can get to the rim off the bounce and is pretty solid in the transition game, as well. Defensively, even though Syracuse's zone makes isolation of his ability a trickier exercise, he was one of the leading steals guys in the nation, has the length to fill/impact passing lanes, and graded out very well per Synergy Sports Technology as the main defender on pick-and-roll ballhandlers and in isolations. He also has the size to be able to spot some minutes at the 2, which increases his value.
On the downside, he will already be 22 years old when the 2013-14 NBA season begins, so he put up his numbers as a much older player in relation to his class. He comes with only one full season's worth of experience as a starter (having played 10 minutes a game as a freshman), which at the point guard spot is a little more worrisome. He also put up many of his big stat lines either in nonleague play or against inferior competition in the Big East. His conference numbers were well down from his preseason play, although the games he uncorked against Indiana and Marquette in the NCAAs were a nice positive.
The biggest question with Carter-Williams at this point, though, is his perimeter shooting. Right now, he's just not a capable shooter. He only made 29 percent of his 120 three-point attempts this season, and a Synergy breakdown into subcategories shows that Carter-Williams was average or worse in every perimeter shooting aspect: long twos, catch-and-shoot, shots off the dribble, guarded, unguarded, etc.
Carter-Williams is a good athlete, but he's not that good that he can expect to operate an NBA team successfully without any semblance of a jump shot to keep teams honest. His inability to make teams pay in the half court with a jump shot will change the way defenses can play him and the rest of his team. It's something he clearly will need to get better with. Jason Kidd was able to exist at a high level for a number of years without a trustworthy jump shot but he's a) a very rare case and b) was a much better and more polished player than Carter-Williams as a collegian.
The good news is you can fix a jump shot (to a certain extent), and Carter-Williams has a lot of other attributes to like. He'll also likely be going to a not-terrible team, which should provide him with additional time to adjust to the pro game, improve his shot, and work into playing man-to-man defense.