Michael Carter-Williams is the early NBA rookie of the year front-runner. Credit: Getty Images
Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) seemed like a safe pick at No. 11 for the 76ers in June.
Fast forward to now and it looks like a steal.
Carter-Williams entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore season at Syracuse and was selected by the Sixers to replace All-Star Jrue Holiday, who was traded to New Orleans. Carter-Williams set a Syracuse record with 111 steals en route to a surprising run to the Final Four.
Through the first seven games of his NBA rookie season, Carter-Williams is causing quite a bit of buzz. Even Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted that MCW is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
“That meant a lot to me, hearing a player like Magic say that about me,” Carter-Williams said. “It was humbling and amazing to hear my name mixed in with his name. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game.”
In his debut against the Miami Heat, MCW had 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds. The only two other players ever to match these numbers in a single game were Rickey Green (26 points, 12 assists, nine steals, seven rebounds) for Utah on Nov. 27, 1982 and Johnny Moore (26 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, nine steals) for San Antonio on Jan. 8, 1985.
MCW was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after his first three games. The only other rookie to earn that award after his first three NBA games? Shaquille O’Neal.
Lofty company, indeed.
“I’m just going out there, listening to the coaches and playing my game,” Carter-Williams said. “It’s been a good start for me, but I have so much to learn and a long way to go. I just want to keep improving every day. I think I am. I’m fortunate to be in a situation where I’m playing. It has given me a chance to learn right away.”
The guard has certainly caught the attention of his opponents. You can bet now that he’s at the top of their scouting reports.
“He’s very relaxed on the court and is playing with a lot of confidence,” said Chicago forward Joakim Noah. “He’s got all the skills. You can see that right away. He has a ton of talent and I’m sure will get better and better.”
“He’s tough, man,” added Cleveland forward Dion Waiters. “He’s got it all – toughness, heart, talent. He’s going to be a great, great player in this league.”
Carter-Williams maintains the same demeanor whether he has scored 20 points or two points. If he misses a few shots in a row, he doesn’t get fazed. He certainly looks mature beyond his years.
“I feel like you need to be confident, but also smart,” MCW said. “I’m very confident in my ability, but I also know I’m going to make mistakes. The key is correcting them. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and I believe good things will happen.”