Beyond both of them playing the same position, there are not a lot of similarities between Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams. But which of them is the better NBA prospect? Today's Toss Up breaks it down.
Skill remains the most important thing at the NBA level, but size definitely matters. Height isn't a deal-breaker at the point guard position like it can be elsewhere on the floor, but bigger remains better if the rest of the package remains relatively equal.
An excellent athlete, Carter-Williams is approaching 6-foot-6 in shoes (which is how most people play basketball) with a 6-7 1/2 wingspan. At only 185 pounds or so, he's going to have to add some weight as he goes, but his height aids his refined passing ability and his wingspan should help him defend the position.
Burke is about five inches shorter than Carter-Williams, but weighs the same. Burke's wingspan, though, is north of 6-5, which helps a good amount. He's not the athlete Carter-Williams is in terms of leaping and overall agility, but he's certainly a solid one himself. He's going to have to prove he can not only run offenses against larger and/or stronger defenders but also defend on the ball and be able to consistently get around NBA screens.
Burke is a very good shooter from the point guard spot, especially considering how often he ended up shooting off the dribble coming off a screen. He runs the pick-and-roll very well for a college guard, making good reads but more importantly timing the action well. He's also a solid passer and can get out and lead the break effectively. He was a decent-but-not-great defender at Michigan.
Carter-Williams is a very sketchy shooter, even though his stroke doesn't look too bad. He's a very good passer and good in transition. Defensively, he was disruptive in the Syracuse zone, but obviously will have to make an adjustment to playing heavy man defense in the pros. He seems to have the ability to do it, but it's a question mark.
Functional (in-game) skills
Burke was the National Player of the Year for a reason: He was really, really good on a really young team. He's a more complete and refined player than Carter-Williams at this stage. (It helps that Burke played considerably more as a freshman -- over 35 minutes a game -- than Carter-Williams did as a reserve.)
Carter-Williams put up bigger numbers in Syracuse's non-league schedule (read: mostly at home against outclassed foes) than he did in the Big East, where teams figured out pretty quickly that the Orange couldn't shoot at all from the perimeter (especially when James Southerland wasn't available or hot). When you're the point guard on a team that can't score, that's a sizable demerit.
The two faced off in the national semifinals and both were very poor.
Bottom line: If you need a guy to be pretty good right out of the chute, you need Burke.
NBA range of possibilities
As mentioned in Burke's breakdown last week, a wide range of NBA comparables suggest that Burke should be, at worst, a fairly capable NBA player. If his skills translate well and his size is less of an issue than it seems, his upside is very solid. He's a very talented player who has been upstaging doubters for awhile.
Carter-Williams is a much larger boom/bust pick. His size, passing skills and athletic ability are tantalizing (even though the list of tall, successful NBA point guards isn't very lengthy). Carter-Williams is an "if" guy. If he can become a more competent jump shooter, if he can transition into an above-average man defender, if he's a bit more careful with the ball, etc. If more "ifs" than not become reality, Carter-Williams could be tough to handle. If the present is closer to what he will be down the road, Burke has the better future.
It all comes down to roster fit and appetite for risk. All things being equal, I'd rather avoid a bust with a high lottery pick than gamble on a star, but you have to evaluate each situation separately.
Slight advantage: Burke In the end, Burke is probably the choice for most general managers, but you can definitely make an argument for Carter-Williams, especially if a team already has shooters and could use a pass-first point guard with the size to defend more than one position.