Michael Carter-Williams, the Syracuse point guard who was 3rd in the country in assists per game and 6th in steals, announced Wednesday he’s headed to the NBA. As a freshman, MCW couldn’t get on the court, buried on the bench behind Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. Last season, he played 35 mpg, averaging 11.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, 5.0 rpg and 2.7 spg. To Dick Vitale, MCW was a stat-sheet stuffer.
MCW is a lithe 6-foot-6 and projects as a lottery pick, but just how high he goes is up for debate. Success in January may have gone to his head – I asked in January if he could go No. 1 in the draft and in the 12 games after that post, the Orange went 5-7, MCW played like garbage, and Boeheim grew testy with the media. (In a podcast I did with Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports, he attributed the Syracuse struggles to MCW playing with his mind on the NBA.)
Also, back in December, there was the “mall incident.” MCW, who turns 22 in October, had an up-and-down season.
But Syracuse got hot when it matters in the postseason, and Carter-Williams was brilliant at times – specifically his 24 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16 and his 12-point, 11-rebound, 5-assist effort against Marquette in the Elite 8.
Phil Jackson, during the Final 4, was tweeting about the games and one of the players he singled out was Carter-Williams.
Earlier this season, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, following a game in which Carter-Williams did this:
said this about his point guard:
MCW is dripping with potential. He’s long and graceful and 6-foot-6 point guards are a rarity. In five years will someone regret taking him high the way two teams missed on Russell Westbrook in 2008 or the way teams were kicking themselves for letting Jrue Holiday fall to 17 in 2009? If you were ‘re-drafting’ the 2010 draft again, Paul George (taken 10th) would go in the top 3.
The problems with MCW? His ball handling is shaky at times – when defenders crowded him, he appeared to shy away and give up the ball – and his shot needs serious work (39 percent from the field, 29 percent on 3-pointers). The good news? Shooting coaches exist. I haven’t done a mock draft since February – I’ll wait until everyone who plans on declaring actually declares – but I think the only thing holding him back from going in the Top 10 or even as high as the Top 5 would be team needs. Six of the Top 10 teams in the lottery right now (Phoenix, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington, Minnesota and Oklahoma City) currently have point guards and won’t be drafting one. That leaves Charlotte and Orlando at the very top, and New Orleans and Sacramento in the middle.