The I-76ers

Will MCW Turn Out Like Jason Kidd?

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(image via Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

[ed. note: I've been on a Jason Kidd run lately. I'm now shamelessly plugging my Dime Magazine article from the other week about him and the 1994 draft class.]

After penning “Will MCW Turn Out like Rondo?” a couple of months back, I didn’t necessarily envision this turning into an ongoing series, but Michael Carter-Williams’s role as the go-to scorer on a horrible Sixers team, lack of reliable jump shot, and status as the de facto Rookie of the Year amidst a historically weak class leaves questions about how high his ceiling is as a player.

Is he a player genuinely averaging 16.6 PPPG/6.1 RPG/6.2 APG/1.9 SPG (done only 26 other times in NBA history by 12 different players besides MCW) or is he just the guy the lucky enough to be stat-padding for a team that’s currently the laughing stock of sports (I hate you, Jimmy Fallon.) with a shot chart filled with more red and yellow than the Flash’s costume? (click to enlarge)

Shotchart_1396575871184

The court runs red with MCW’s missed shots.

My quick response to that would be that he’s somewhere in the middle, as his future star status depends solely on reworking a jumper that just doesn’t produce made baskets, as evident by his shot chart. His length, defensive prowess, ability to get to the free throw line, and the fact that he can dish it out (Look at this pass to Thaddeus Young!) all make him extremely intriguing, but basketball is at its simplest form a game of putting the ball through the hoop. Being unable to that severely hurts MCW’s long-term projection, but not all hope is lost for the 22-year-old rookie. Here’s a look at the 27 seasons that have matched Carter-Williams’s counting stats totals:

Shooting Per Game
Player Season Age FG% 3P% PTS TRB AST STL WS
Michael Jordan* 1988-89 25 .538 .276 32.5 8.0 8.0 2.9 19.8
Michael Jordan* 1989-90 26 .526 .376 33.6 6.9 6.3 2.8 19.0
Larry Bird* 1985-86 29 .496 .423 25.8 9.8 6.8 2.0 15.8
LeBron James 2011-12 27 .531 .362 27.1 7.9 6.2 1.9 14.5
LeBron James 2004-05 20 .472 .351 27.2 7.4 7.2 2.2 14.3
Gary Payton* 1999-00 31 .448 .340 24.2 6.5 8.9 1.9 13.9
Magic Johnson* 1981-82 22 .537 .207 18.6 9.6 9.5 2.7 12.9
Scottie Pippen* 1991-92 26 .506 .200 21.0 7.7 7.0 1.9 12.7
Magic Johnson* 1982-83 23 .548 .000 16.8 8.6 10.5 2.2 12.5
Jason Kidd 2002-03 29 .414 .341 18.7 6.3 8.9 2.2 11.3
Scottie Pippen* 1990-91 25 .520 .309 17.8 7.3 6.2 2.4 11.2
Walt Frazier* 1973-74 28 .472 20.5 6.7 6.9 2.0 10.9
Magic Johnson* 1979-80 20 .530 .226 18.0 7.7 7.3 2.4 10.5
Fat Lever 1987-88 27 .473 .211 18.9 8.1 7.8 2.7 10.4
Player Season Age FG% 3P% PTS TRB AST STL WS
Clyde Drexler* 1986-87 24 .502 .234 21.7 6.3 6.9 2.5 10.3
Magic Johnson* 1983-84 24 .565 .207 17.6 7.3 13.1 2.2 10.2
Fat Lever 1986-87 26 .469 .239 18.9 8.9 8.0 2.5 9.7
Jason Kidd 2000-01 27 .411 .297 16.9 6.4 9.8 2.2 9.6
Fat Lever 1988-89 28 .457 .348 19.8 9.3 7.9 2.7 9.2
Fat Lever 1989-90 29 .443 .414 18.3 9.3 6.5 2.1 8.8
Scottie Pippen* 1992-93 27 .473 .237 18.6 7.7 6.3 2.1 8.6
Jason Kidd 1998-99 25 .444 .366 16.9 6.8 10.8 2.3 8.1
Magic Johnson* 1980-81 21 .532 .176 21.6 8.6 8.6 3.4 6.4
Alvin Robertson 1987-88 25 .465 .284 19.6 6.1 6.8 3.0 5.8
Micheal Ray Richardson 1981-82 26 .461 .188 17.9 6.9 7.0 2.6 5.5
Jason Kidd 1995-96 22 .381 .336 16.6 6.8 9.7 2.2 4.3
Michael Carter-Williams 2013-14 22 .396 .256 16.6 6.1 6.2 1.9 0.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

That’s phenomenal company, as it includes arguably the three best players to every step on a court in Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, surefire Hall of Famers in Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Walt Frazier, Jason Kidd, and Gary Payton, and even multiple-time All-Stars in its lowest tier in Michael Ray Richardson (drugs are bad), Fat Lever, and Alvin Robertson. The most intriguing thing about this list other than Fat Lever being the name of a late-90′s NBA All-Star instead of the name of a 19th-century baseball player is that MCW is unfortunately having the worst season amongst any of these players.

That critique isn’t entirely fair to Carter-Williams, as he’s tied for the second-youngest player on here at 22-years-old with Kidd and is just a year older than Magic, while without a doubt having the worst supporting of any player listed. His field-goal percentage is the second lowest behind Kidd. Considering he’s sitting among some of the greatest scores in league history, it’s no surprise he’s tied for the worst PPG total with (who else?) Kidd. Is there a pattern emerging?

MCW’s profile becomes increasingly similar to that of J-Kidd when looking at the previously mentioned characteristics that define Carter-Williams’s style:

Size: MCW stands at 6’6″ and Kidd is listed at 6’4″.

Defensive ability: MCW is still quite young, but flashes a ton of potential here with a 6’7.25″ wingspan and steal rate that’s ninth-best in the NBA, while Kidd made nine All-Defensive teams.

Putrid shooting stroke: MCW is horrifically shooting 39.6% from the field, while Kidd shot even worse, coming in at 38.5% over the course of his first two seasons.

The hope lies in the fact that Kidd drastically improved his shot over the course of his career, starting as a 38.5% shooter and morphing into a slightly above-average three-point shooter during the second half of his playing days, connecting on 36.9% of shots from beyond the arc from 2005 to 2013. That doesn’t seem that spectacular of an improvement, but going from one of the the worst shooters in the league to a guy with a consistent three-point shot added an entirely new element to a dynamic player like Kidd and his arsenal.

If Carter-Williams even sniffs 34%-35% from deep in the next handful of seasons, I’d be ecstatic. That change for Kidd allowed him to continue a Hall of Fame career once his pure athletic ability began to fade. MCW doing so in early-20′s would make him a perennial All-Star candidate. While that seems unlikely and premature at this stage, it’s refreshing to know that there is at least some precedent for it.

MCW compares favorably to Kidd during the course of their rookie seasons, as illustrated below with Kidd being 21-years-old in his 1995 season and Carter-Williams being 22-years-old this year (First set of tats are per 36 minutes):

Player Season FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
Michael Carter-Williams 2013-14 16.1 .396 3.4 .256 5.4 .693 6.3 6.5 2.0 3.8 17.3
Jason Kidd 1994-95 11.6 .385 3.5 .272 3.7 .698 5.8 8.2 2.0 3.4 12.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.
Player Season PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% TOV% USG% WS WS/48
Michael Carter-Williams 2013-14 14.8 .469 .422 9.4 30.0 2.7 17.3 26.1 0.4 .009
Jason Kidd 1994-95 15.1 .471 .426 8.7 33.2 2.9 20.4 19.0 3.7 .066
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

Hey, that makes Carter-Williams look pretty good! For as much as MCW and this Sixers team as a whole have been derided for their frequent turnovers, Carter-Williams had a lower turnover rate than Kidd, despite having a much higher usage rate. Go, MCW! Kidd won Rookie of the Year honors to boot, sharing the award with Grant Hill, just as Carter-Williams seemingly will.

J-Kidd was also a year younger at this stage of his career, as he improved enough in his second season to be included on that original listing of 27 seasons to put up MCW’s totals. Considering that MCW’s a little old for a modern-day NBA rookie (Brandon Knight is just a few months younger than him), a comparison between Kidd’s second season at age-22 and Carter-Williams’s current campaign may be a bit more apt (First set of stats are per 36 minutes):

Player Season FGA FG% 3PA 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
Michael Carter-Williams 2013-14 16.1 .396 3.4 .256 5.4 .693 6.3 6.5 2.0 3.8 17.3
Jason Kidd 1995-96 15.3 .381 4.7 .336 3.9 .692 6.6 9.3 2.1 3.9 16.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.
Player Season PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% TOV% USG% WS WS/48
Michael Carter-Williams 2013-14 14.8 .469 .422 9.4 30.0 2.7 17.3 26.1 0.4 .009
Jason Kidd 1995-96 17.8 .468 .433 9.6 41.5 2.9 18.6 24.3 4.3 .068
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/3/2014.

The numbers from Carter-Williams are still favorable to those of Kidd, but he appears to be a year or so behind in his development, given that he entered the league a year later than Kidd. This still ultimately bodes well for MCW. Kidd improved as a shooter from three-point range, going from 27.2% as a rookie to 33.6% as a sophomore. It’s still below league-average, but it at least displayed some sense of competent shooting ability to be combined with Kidd’s other talents as a floor general. Carter-Williams is not Evan Turner. His shot is not broken and his mechanics seem sound to a degree. Just another summer spent developing under the tutelage of head coach Brett Brown might be all that MCW needs.

During the pre-2013 NBA draft process, Carter-Williams claimed that he modeled his game after Kidd while growing up, making this comparison even more fitting. It’s unfortunate that Kidd currently serves as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, as MCW and J-Kidd could’ve teamed up in the offseason for some Hakeem Olajuwon/LeBron James or Cam’ron/Juelz Santana level of training and mentorship. Carter-Williams will more likely than not take home the Rookie of the Year Award next month as a nice consolation prize for an otherwise tank-ridden Sixers season. While those type of accolades are deserved and fun, MCW’s strategy for improvement this offseason is vastly more integral to the success and well-being of the franchise than any one award.

The odds are against Carter-Williams having a Kidd-esque transformation, but with reinforcements coming in the form of one or more highly-touted first-round picks this June, he may not need to have one in order to establish himself as a key cog on a future contending Sixers squad. His defense and ability to drive to the basket give him a high floor in terms of being a capable starting point guard. That may suffice on a team led by a hopefully dominant wing player making his way to Philadelphia via the draft this summer. Any steps he makes on his way to reinvigorating his shot are just a bonus for Brown and his staff.