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Analyzing the talent level of Michael Carter-Williams

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Michael Carter-Williams is strongest out the gate for the 2013 draft class, putting up a 22 point, 12 assist, 9 steal game in his first game and 26 points, 10 assists, 3 steals in his 3rd. Against two great defenses in Miami and Chicago, no less.

But as recent rookies Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Lin have proved among others, a start this hot does not guarantee long term stardom.

Here was how I rated Michael Carter-Williams talent level in June in my three categories Physical Impact Talent, Skill Impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent, using these grades:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Grades:

Physical impact grade: 6 / Decent

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

For players with a grade of 17, due to variables like shooting development, I estimated these probabilities of having talent higher or lower than this:

< 1% Perennial all-star talent (grade of 25+)
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent (23+)
15% Blue Chip starter talent (19+)
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (17+)
98.5% Rotation player talent (14+)
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent (12+)

Carter-Williams’ appeal was based on a combination of physical talents and feel for the game. As a good, but not elite athlete with ballhandling skills, he has talent attacking the basket off the dribble. His length is an asset defensively, but a thin frame may hurt him finishing plays at the rim.

His biggest strength is his feel for the game. He is a crafty and smooth player, allowing him to find space in the defense and to see the court passing the ball. His steals so far is also arguably a product of anticipation and vision.

This clip shows how MCW’s speed and feel, has helped him attack the basket and find teammates:

Why Carter-Williams didn’t rate higher is his shooting. He shot 30.7% from 3 and 67.9% from the FT line over two years at Syracuse, including 29.4% from 3 and 69.4% from the FT line his sophomore season. The 3 point shooting numbers are poor for the NCAA line, but the FTs were even more worrying as typically good shooting prospects, are at least in the 70s.

That shooting is the biggest difference in his NBA career so far, hitting 47.1% from 3 in his first 3 games, going 8 for 17 from outside. Considering most prospects need time to translate to the longer NBA line, this has been impressive. Carter-Williams has only gone 66.7% from the FT line by hitting 10 for 15. Both of course, are at a risk of small sample size trickery. MCW hitting 5 for 17 from 3 instead of 8 for 17, would have made his 3P% 29.4%, identical to his final year at Syracuse. On the other hand, hitting 12 for 17 from the FT line would have made his number 80% from there, more representative of a great FT shooter. To give you an example of how Carter-Williams could fall apart from 3, after Jeremy Lin started 1-10 from 3 his first 3 “Linsanity” games, he went on to go 12 for 26 from 3 in his next 8 games (46.2%),  a larger sample size than MCW has had, before reverting. A more positive comparison for MCW is Chandler Parsons who had a 4 years college career where he averaged 33.7% from 3 and a weak 61.1% from the FT line, but has gone on to average over 36.6% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game in the NBA, making him one of the better shooting options at the SF position. Shooting like MCW in college is not a death sentence, it just makes it less likely.

If Carter-Williams settled into an above average shooter at the position, deserving of a grade of 6 or higher in my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent category – I would rate him as a “blue chip” talent, roughly enough to be an above average starter. It’s surprising that a player with his college shooting career would shoot at an above average NBA rate, but the unpredictably of shooting is largely the reason for giving out that estimate of 15% chance at a blue chip talent. The only way I can see Carter-Williams surpassing even that to  become a perennial all-star and franchise player, is if he becomes one of the best shooters in the NBA. Nothing is impossible, but after his Syracuse results I’d need a larger sample size than 17 shots to put that in play. The worst case scenario is that Carter-Williams’ shooting falls apart and more, where the inability to hit open shots leads defenders to play way off him, Rajon Rondo-style.

To me, early Jeremy Lin is the all-around best comparison. Like Lin, Carter-Williams has the athleticism to attack the basket, size for his position and a strong feel for the game. And like Lin, the rest of his career will depend on shooting. Lin’s regression as a shooter made him a poor fit with James Harden and cost him his starting spot to begin this year, though by hitting 4 from 10 to start this year from 3 he may be on the rebound. My guess is that MCW at best is an above average, but non all-star PG, but at worst is a 3rd guard and average contributor. To Michael Carter-Williams’ credit, he has started his career with confidence and has seized the opportunity given to him by lack of offensive options above him in Philadelphia. His start sets the table for the rest of his career. He’s booked his place at the table for the long term, but how close to the head of the table will he be?

Written by jr.

November 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: The 2011-2012 NBA Eastern Conference

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Miami Heat

It appears to be a 2 team race between the Heat and Bulls in the East (Image by Keith Allison via Flickr)

Who’s coming out on top in the Eastern Conference this year? My predictions:

15. Washington Wizards (14-52)- Frankly, any team who finishes with a worse record than Charlotte should be embarrassed. Nevertheless, the way that happens is with a team who takes dumb shots, turns it over like crazy and is ambivalent defensively. One of the key points separating the bad from the horrible will be which teams pack it in after poor starts. In this compressed schedule and with tired legs, many young and immature players may see a 10 point deficit as a reason to take the rest of the game off. Washington has a lot of those players.

John Wall in preseason has played unfortunate, still pushing the ball too fast and too out of control, rather than reading his teammates and controlling the pace of the game. There’s still time but I believe he is an overrated prospect due to having the athleticism but not the basketball IQ of a player like Derrick Rose. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

December 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

6 Finals thoughts and a prediction

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Alright, I’m running way behind schedule, so this will be right quick.

Loved reading Julien’s piece analyzing the Mavericks and the Heat. He made some points I’d have made had he not beat me to it, and some other great points I wouldn’t have made.

Here are some other finals previews I enjoyed reading.

On my mind:

1. Miami certainly appears to have played the tougher playoff schedule by a good amount, and they’ve looked more in control as they’ve done it. Not to take anything away from the Mavs who are 12-3 in the post-season just like the Heat, but they were a few bounces away from being down 2-1 in the Laker series instead of up 3-0, and maybe a single bounce away from losing 2 of 3 at home against Oklahoma City. Add in that the Heat clearly have more talent and have home court advantage:

If Dallas wins this series, it will be a pretty staggering achievement and a substantial upset.

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Written by Matt Johnson

May 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Why the Bulls will be in trouble after the 1st round

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Derrick Rose

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Despite an evenly played series, the Chicago Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the Indiana Pacers – now 3-1, and should close it out in Chicago in Game 5.

There have been teams who’ve looked shaky in early rounds but still proved title winners or contenders. The 2008 Celtics needed 7 games to dispatch the Hawks in their 1st round. The 97 and 98 Bulls had low margins of victory in their first round sweeps. But I believe the Bulls struggle to dominate the Pacers indicate flaws that will likely come back to haunt them.

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Written by jr.

April 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

My choice for MVP: Howard over Rose just barely

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Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, 2008–09

Image via Wikipedia

After having Derrick Rose at #1 on my MVP list for the last month heading into the last stretch of the regular season, I have to give Dwight Howard the final nod. I don’t make this switch lightly – I’ve actually been changing my mind regularly for the past two weeks – but in the end Howard’s got the argument I cannot refute.

On Rose

Let’s start in defense of Rose, whose candidacy has been repeatedly assaulted by the stat-oriented minds of the internet. The root of the argument against Rose is that his stats are weak compared to other stars in the league. Of course, Rose averaged 25 points per game and nearly 8 assists per game – a quite rare combination, that’s exactly doesn’t scream “unworthy”. So what’s the issue? Well the advanced all-in-one stats like PER and Win Shares simply prefer other players. If you put enough stock in these stats and their precision, then this is a strong argument for others above Rose. Do we truly have a sense the advantages in play here are significant relative to the precision of these stats though?

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

NBA Playoff Preview – The Biggest Questions

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Twas the night before the playoffs and all through the house, not a soul was stirring, not even Eddie House…

Rajon Rondo, the 21st pick of the Boston Celtics

Is Rajon Rondo the playoffs biggest X-factor?

Matt won’t be back till next week, so you’re stuck with me for A Substitute for War’s lack of playoff preview wisdom:

First, here are my opening round predictions:

East: Chicago over Indiana in 5, Miami over Philadelphia in 6, Boston over New York in 6, Orlando over Atlanta in 5.

West: San Antonio over Memphis in 5, LA over New Orleans in 5, Portland over Dallas in 6, Oklahoma City over Denver in 5.

Since that’s over, instead of spending a couple thousand words telling you why Chicago is better than Indiana or LA is better than New Orleans, I’ll spend some time dissecting the favorites and what they need to prove to win the title:

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Understanding the scale of the Bulls’ success

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Image via awesomestories.com

I want to take a moment to hammer something in that I don’t think people have quite grasped. That being: What the Bulls have accomplished in the last 4+ months is absolutely staggering.

First let me give some credit to our commenter lpb who made me really start thinking about this. He responded my first post analyzing how elite teams (top 8 in the league) were doing against each other before the all-star break noting that while the Bulls overall record was nothing terribly noteworthy, the team was undefeated against the other elites since Carlos Boozer joined the starting lineup (on Dec. 4th). It was a good point then, but I wanted to see them keep it up (and figured they probably couldn’t). Guess what? The Bulls have completed the last of their regular season games against the other elites, having gone 12 & 0, undefeated against the elites in the over 4 months of play since that date.

In the time span, their overall record has been 51 & 12. That’s a 66 win pace with their average margin of victory in that time has been 9.14 points per game. If that last number doesn’t mean anything to you, just know that there has only been one team in the post-Jordan era to have an average margin of victory north of 9 points per game (the ’08 Celtics).

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 12, 2011 at 6:57 am

Rose vs Howard and the Inescapability of Narrative

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Image by joguldi via Flickr

In a very strange year where every candidate has something “wrong” with them, we’re still debating the MVP race with only a few games left. The race has narrowed around the star of the golden team (Derrick Rose) and the one MVP candidate from last year who can say he’s improved (Dwight Howard).

Opinions tend to be with the mainstream guys going for Rose and the heavy blogger thinker guys on the internet going for Howard. (And let’s note that the poll on the APBRmetrics board sides with LeBron.) I’m personally on record as being on the fence between Rose and Howard, so what gets me ornery enough to write a piece is someone being dead set that even sitting on the fence is wrong.

Enter John Hollinger. With him, it seems I’m guaranteed to find both compelling arguments, and some stuff I disagree with enough that I end up writing about it. (Unfortunate that  I end up writing about the “bad” because I really do respect the guy, and I absolutely use his stats.)  He’s now written Truth about the Derrick Rose Story, trying to take down Rose, and favoring Howard, so it’s on.

Turn Me On, Dead Man

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 7, 2011 at 2:00 am

John Wall: Don’t pencil him in as the next Derrick Rose

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John Wall

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

John Wall has a lot in common with Derrick Rose. Aside from getting picked #1 and being deemed a future superstar, both have a combination of size and incredible explosiveness from the PG position. Now, in his 3rd year Derrick Rose is the frontrunner for MVP averaging 24.9 points and 7.9 assists on the #1 team in the East. Wall is averaging 16 points, 9 assists and 1.7 steals on 40% shooting – a roughly expected rookie season with a few more bricks. The Wizards are on pace to fall below 20 wins.

On the surface it’s easy to think Wall is going to follow Rose’s footsteps and become a superstar. He has the talent to. I’m not convinced. Making the leap from all-star to MVP candidate is about what you have upstairs. For all of Rose’s physical gifts, it’s only half of what makes him a special player. Rose is the consumate leader and team player. He works as hard as anyone in the league as shown by rapid improvements in all areas of the game. He understands winning is the only goal and he should balance his scoring and passing by what will get his team there. When Rose plays, he controls the game. He slows the game down and has mastered pounding teams in the halfcourt pick and roll. Rose can be a champion because of what he has in mind as much as body.

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Written by jr.

March 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Ranking the NBA title favorites before the ides of March

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After a day of elite on elite action on a Sunday with a little more than a month to go in the regular season, seems like a good time to evaluate the title contenders.

First let me give an updated chart of how the elites have done against each other. (My original table from last month was in the Guts & Domination post.)


 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s ordered by the significant margin wins based on the theory that those are the truly telling results. This seems fine to me generally, but reader lpb has pointed out that Chicago’s record is heavily skewed based on what happened early in the season. In the last 3 months, the Bulls are a remarkably 10-0 against the other elites, with half of those being >5 margin wins. Damn impressive. Still not enough for me to pick them to win the title.

The Favorites, from most to least

1. Boston Celtics

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