The I-76ers

Sixers/Magic Preview: Oladipo & MCW Vie for ROY

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(image via Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel)

The last five posts on I-76ers have some form of the word “tanking” in it, so this preview of the 76ers and Orlando Magic’s contest tonight won’t talk too much about the t-word, or how the Sixers and Magic have the second and third-worst records in the NBA, respectively. Nor will I carry on about ex-Sixer Nikola Vucevic, who has blossomed during his tenure in Orlando and has excelled at getting some payback on Philly, as he’s posted 14 PPG and 16.5 RPG in his four career games against the Sixers since being banished to Orlando by the wrath of Doug Collins. I’m going to change up the pace and actually talk about a player on the Sixers roster for once: Michael Carter-Williams.

Even going beyond his near-quadruple-double effort in his NBA debut against the Miami Heat, Carter-Williams got his pro career off to a great start, averaging 17.8 PPG to go with a true-shooting percentage of 49.8%, a league-landing steal percentage of 4.2%, a neutral net rating, and an assist rate of 32.9% up until the end of 2013. These aren’t earth-shattering statistics by any means, but illustrated that MCW could be a beacon of hop in an otherwise dreary season; however, since the calendar has flipped to 2014, Carter-Williams has hit the dreaded rookie wall and hasn’t performed up to the lofty expectations he set for himself during his first two months of play.

In the 26 games that Carter-Williams has played in 2014, his PPG (16.9), TS% (47.1)%, steal rate (1.8%), net rating (-19), and assist rate (27.1%) have all dropped. MCW has nevertheless remained the favorite in the Rookie of the Year race, as the rest of his rookie class has been underwhelming to say the least. The lone rookie with any sort of chance of Carter-Williams, however slim, is Magic guard Victor Oladipo.

Oladipo seemed to be a prototypical two-guard when entering the league; however, the Magic have deployed Oladpio at point guard more often than not, as 51% of his minutes so far this year are coming at the point. My doubts about Oladipo sticking at point guard long-term are a discussion for another day, but the fact remains that Oladipo is a nice comp in terms of setting for Carter-Williams, as both are lottery picks starting at the one for two of the worst teams in the NBA. Here’s how they rate against each other in some simple, per game numbers:

Player FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA TRB AST STL TOV PTS
Michael Carter-Williams 15.4 .401 3.3 .277 5.7 5.2 6.3 2.0 3.6 17.3
Victor Oladipo 11.9 .413 2.8 .315 4.1 4.3 4.1 1.6 3.1 14.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

Considering they play a similar amount of minutes per game, MCW at a little over 34 MPG and Oladipo at 31 MPG, a per game comparison between the two is pretty fair. Their numbers are fairly similar.  Carter-Williams has shot the ball more and in turn put up more points, but Oladipo has been a bit more efficient. The rebound, assist, and steal numbers are in Carter-Williams’s favor, but, again, not by much. A look at some of the advanced metrics don’t illustrate Carter-Williams has having as dominate of a lead as originally thought either:

Player PER TS% TRB% AST% STL% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg WS/48
Michael Carter-Williams 15.8 .482 8.1 29.7 2.8 16.8 26.1 96 108 .027
Victor Oladipo 13.9 .509 7.6 21.5 2.6 18.3 24.1 95 105 .031
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2014.

Carter-Williams edges Oladipo in PER, as the former rates as a slightly above-average pro and the latter rates as below-average; however Oladipo is still scoring more efficiently given his lead in TS%. One bright spot for MCW comes with his lower turnover rate despite a higher usage rate compared to the former Indiana standout, as he’s making less mistakes despite more opportunities to do so. He still has a long way to go and these metrics are in no way predictive, but MCW at least seems more suited to be a better point guard going forward than Oladipo.

I’d think Carter-Williams is still the overwhelmingly likely favorite for the Rookie of the Year crown. A lot of that may come from some media members’ bias to his early season heroics and ignoring his struggles to end the year, but he still looks to have performed better than Oladipo and all of the other rookies disappointing to varying degrees in their class.

Once Oladipo settles in playing off the ball, as he hopefully will next season, he should begin resembling the player he was as a Hoosier. With each of their respective franchises in position for major acquisitions during this June’s draft and some key pieces already in place on both sides, tonight has the potential to be one of the early bouts in a budding MCW/Oladipo rivalry.