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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?

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Written by jr.

November 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

2013 NBA Draft Talent Grades: The Point Guards

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Here are my talent grades for the PGs in the NBA Draft. The PGs I find relevant enough to grade are Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. McCollum, Myck Kabongo, Dennis Schroeder, Shane Larkin, Isaiah Canaan, Phil Pressey and Nate Wolters. (Seth Curry will be on my SGs list) *May 8th update: Added Pierre Jackson, Erick Green, Matthew Dellavedova, Ray McCallum. Removed Russ Smith (returning to school). *June 2nd update: Added Lorenzo Brown

I give the PGs grades from 1 to 11 in the areas of physical impact, skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) and feel for the game, according to this rubric:

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

First, here are my grades split between the 3 categories:

Physical impact talent grades:

Dennis Schroeder – 8 / Great

Myck Kabongo – 7 / Very good

Lorenzo Brown – 7 / Very good

Michael Carter-Williams  – 5 / Average

C.J. McCollum – 5 / Average

Pierre Jackson – 5 / Average

Trey Burke – 3 / Weak

Phil Pressey – 2 / Very Poor

Shane Larkin – 2 / Very poor

Isaiah Canaan – 2 / Very poor

Nate Wolters – 2 / Very poor

Matthew Dellavedova – 2 / Very poor

Erick Green – 2 / Very poor

Ray McCallum – 2 / Very poor

Schroeder and Kabongo lead the way for physical impact. Schroeder has a strong first step attacking the basket and respectable size for the position. Kabongo and Brown also have a nice combination of speed and size. Pierre Jackson is as explosive as any of the PGs, but also the smallest at a generous 5’10. Carter-Williams is long which will help defensively, but I do not see a plus athlete for the position, in addition he is skinny which may hurt finishing. McCollum has the ballhandling and size to get to the basket and finish, but is also not a plus athlete. Burke, Pressey, Larkin, Canaan, Wolters, Green, McCallum, Dellavedova are at a likely weakness as slashers and physical impact players, with questionable athleticism and/or size for their position.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grades:

Trey Burke – 9 / Elite

Matthew Dellavedova – 9 / Elite

CJ McCollum – 8 / Great

Shane Larkin – 8 / Great

Isaiah Canaan – 8 / Great

Nate Wolters – 8 /Great

Erick Green – 8 / Great

Pierre Jackson – 7 / Very good

Lorenzo Brown – 5 / Average

Michael Carter-Williams – 4 / Lacking

Dennis Schroeder – 4 / Lacking

Myck Kabongo – 4 / Lacking

Phil Pressey – 4 / Lacking

Ray McCallum – 4 / Lacking

Burke and Dellavedova leads the way in skill impact. Burke is a terrific perimeter shooter, shot creator and passer. Dellavedova’s shooting at the 3pt and FT lines are also excellent and he’s a talented, creative passer. McCollum, Larkin, Canaan, Wolters, Jackson, Green are also among the NCAA’s standout perimeter scorers. The rest are a work in progress. It’s hard to rank players below average when they’ve yet to prove into the NBA they can’t develop to respectable levels, but Brown, Carter-Williams, Schroeder, Kabongo, Pressey and McCallum are not known as reliable perimeter scorers and could easily perform worse than the grades I gave them.

Feel for the Game talent grades:

Trey Burke – 9 / Elite

Matthew Dellavedova – 9 / Elite

C.J. McCollum – 8 / Great

Shane Larkin – 8 / Great

Isaiah Canaan – 8 / Great

Phil Pressey – 8 / Great

Nate Wolters – 8 / Great

Erick Green – 8 / Great

Ray McCallum – 8 / Great

Myck Kabongo – 7 / Very good

Lorenzo Brown – 7 / Very good

Pierre Jackson – 6 / Decent

Michael Carter-Williams – 6 / Decent

Dennis Schroeder – 4 / Lacking

An impressive group. Burke and Dellavedova’s feel for the game jumped off the screen in college, playing with a superior control, fluidity and awareness of teammates. McCollum, Larkin, Caneen, Pressey, Wolters, Green, McCallum, Kabongo, Brown are also smooth, intelligent points. Carter-Williams and Jackson can be erratic at times, but also have solid vision and awareness on both ends. Schroeder is hard to get a read on, but appears to lack some control or awareness driving, relying on his physical tools.

By adding up these scores, my rankings of PG prospects:

Tier 1 – Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 19-22)

C.J. McCollum

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Trey Burke

Physical impact talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Hard to pick between Burke and McCollum, who impress me for similar reasons. Both should have strong perimeter shooting/scoring games, both with with range and superb ballhandling creating jumpshots and space off the dribble. Both are smooth, fluid and smart offensive players. McCollum is considered less of a guarantee to play PG, but I see ballhandling and feel for the game what separates players who can play PG from thus forced to SG the most and McCollum is great and not just good in both. McCollum’s size makes me sold on his ability to slash and create points in the paint, albeit Burke’s skill, passing and decision making is more of a guarantee. My gut saying McCollum has the higher upside if his shooting and slashing are better than my grades indicate, but I expect both to compete for rookie of the year next season with the award favoring guards who can handle the ball and create offense for themselves immediately.

Matthew Dellavedova

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Elite

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Dellavedova may be the weakest athlete of this group, despite solid size for his position and ballhandling otherwise helping him attack the basket. Where he shines is his skill and feel for the game. He scored 3s at a high volume and has the highest FT% of this group at over 85%, with his ballhandling gives him solid perimeter scoring potential. Moreso, he’s arguably the most creative passer of this group. He’s a very smooth and intelligent player, seeing the game a step ahead of others. Despite his physical limitations, Dellavedova’s skills and feel for the game makes me rank him as a likely starting PG in the NBA.

Lorenzo Brown

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Lorenzo Brown is impressive physically. He has a strong first step, which with good ballhandling skills helps him attack the basket off the dribble. Brown is skinny, but is a huge 6’5 for a PG which may help him finish. His size also may help him physically impact the game defensively.

Brown also has an above average feel for the game, as a relatively smooth, crafty and instinctive PG. His feel helped him turn into one of the NCAA’s top distributers by his final year at 7.2 assists per game.

As a skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent Brown is a question mark. He is not known as a shooter hitting only 26.3% from 3 his junior year, albeit a more respectable 35.1% his sophomore season. His 77.1% FT mark as a junior is solid and indicative of workable mechanics. His passing and his size giving him post potential, are also encouraging. I settled on an average grade in the category, though he could in reality be better or worse than that mark when all is said and done.

With an average to good jumpshot, I see Brown as having the athleticism, size and feel to be a starter. If his shot translates at a poor level he will likely struggle to establish himself as a starter. Lorenzo is a high upside point guard.

Tier 2 – Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grades (Grades between 17-18)

Myck Kabongo

Physical impact talent grade: 7 / Very good

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good
Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Myck is a nice PG prospect. He’s big and athletic enough to attack the basket consistently, with a fluid game and awareness of his teammates. His problem is an unproven perimeter shooting game. Although I expect his physical tools and feel keeps him in a rotation alone, he’ll need a perimeter scoring game to start in the NBA. Myck has the upside of a blue chip player if he improves to a plus level in the area.

Shane Larkin

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Isaiah Canaan

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Nate Wolters

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Erick Green

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 8 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

All four players have the same grade, despite some differences in style between Larkin and the other 2. Larkin is faster but very small, while Caneen’s size (a little small), Green’s size (average) and Wolters’ size (big) is respectable for a PG, but they lack the speed to slash to the basket well in the NBA. All are good bets to make it because they can shoot and are crafty, smart players. While unlikely stars, I expect Larkin, Canaan, Wolters and Green to be reliable NBA players.

Pierre Jackson

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 7 / Very good

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Jackson is the fastest and arguably the most athletic point guard of this group, but at barely 5’10 is also tiny and will struggle to finish at the basket. With his ballhandling, his ability to attack the basket still is enough for an average physical impact grade. His perimeter shooting is above average for a point guard. Jackson also has solid awareness and instincts, despite some erratic-ism.  Jackson may end up starting for some years in his career before settling into excellent backup status.

Tier 3 – Rotation player talent grades (Grades between 14-16)

Dennis Schroeder

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

I am not basing this off a ton of footage, so take my grades for Schroeder and other European players with a grain of salt. Schroeder is getting buzz for his ability to get to the basket and size for his position, but the rest of his game has question marks. His control and awareness looks to be a question mark. In addition, like Kabongo it’s accepted Schroeder’s perimeter shooting game needs development if he wants to start in the NBA.

Michael Carter-Williams

Physical impact talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 16 (Rotation player talent grade)

Although Carter-Williams is very long for a PG, I am not a huge fan of his physical impact tools. He has average explosiveness and his lack of strength, makes him struggle finishing plays at the basket after slashing. Despite his high assist numbers, I also grade Carter-Williams’ feel for the game as merely decent, there are times when he looks out of control instead of smooth when driving to the basket, albeit he also has moments of greatness in anticipation and vision. Much of his career will hinge on his perimeter shot which is very worrying at this stage of his career. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he can be an average shooter or near it in his skill impact grade, but he could be regraded at a lower level in the category if his shooting is poor in the NBA. His passing also helps his skill impact grade. Overall, Carter-Williams’ length and feel for the game gives him high defensive potential at PG, but offensively without assured slashing or shooting ability, he’s a huge question mark. Carter-Williams can turn himself into a starter if his shooting develops, but I also see major bust risk if he’s taken into the lottery.

Phil Pressey

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking
Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade)

Pressey is somewhat of a less skilled version of Larkin. He’s quick, but lack of size makes his slashing and physical impact game unlikely to translate. His strength is a high feel for the game and instincts level, with strong control and craftiness. Pressey’s career will depend on his shooting ability. If he is questionable scoring in the paint, he needs the perimeter shot to drop to produce. Like the other points I will give his development the beneift of the doubt by not grading him too low in the category, but if he is a poor shooter instead of average in the NBA he’d likely struggle to find a long term place in the league.

Ray McCallum

Physical impact talent grade: 2 / Very poor

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

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 14 (Rotation player talent grade)

McCallum has an excellent feel for the game and fluid awareness of teammates. However the rest of his talent is lacking. He has sluggish athleticism attacking the basket and has struggles as a perimeter shooter. McCallum is a smart enough player to stick in the league, but barring fixing his shooting game I do not see the physical and skill talents to start.

Factors outside of talent grades: I consider Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) grades the hardest to gauge. Because of their age I trust Burke, McCollum, Dellavedova, Larkin, Canaan, Wolters, Green’s strong scores as likely to be accurate, while players in developmental stages are harder to predict.

Taking this into account, if purely ranking upside I would rank it: 1. McCollum 2. Burke 3. Brown 4. Dellavedova 5. Kabongo 6. Jackson 7. Schroeder 8. Wolters 9. Green 10. Larkin 11. Canaan 12. Carter-Williams 13. Pressey 14. McCallum. Brown, Kabongo and Schroeder are the main beneficiaries of ranking by upside, presuming they make a leap up in skill. If judging worst case scenario, I would rank it (with a high ranking as positive) 1. Burke 2. McCollum 3. Dellavedova 4. Wolters 5. Green 6. Larkin 7. Canaan 8. Jackson 9. Brown 10. Kabongo 11. Schroeder 12. Carter-Williams 13. Pressey 14. McCallum. In this case Brown, Kabongo, Schroeder, Carter-Williams, McCallum and Pressey would find it hard to mark a consistent place in the league due to lack of useable perimeter skill plays.

Final rankings and an estimate of where they rank on my overall list:

1. C.J. McCollum (top 10)
2. Trey Burke (top 10)
3. Lorenzo Brown (top 14)
4. Matthew Dellavedova (top 14)
5. Myck Kabongo (top 20)
6. Erick Green (top 20)
7. Shane Larkin (top 20)
8. Nate Wolters (top 20)
9. Isaiah Canaan (top 20)
10. Pierre Jackson (top 20)
11. Dennis Schroeder (top 30)
12. Michael Carter-Williams (top 30)
13. Phil Pressey (top 40)
14. Ray McCallum (top 40)

For fun considering he led the way all year for PGs, my grade for Marcus Smart:

Physical impact talent grade: 8 / Great

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Smart has impressive explosiveness and size, making it likely he’s an impact guarding attacking the basket and finishing. His physical tools also give him the talent to physically impact the game defensively at a high level. Smart suits his name, as a smooth and crafty player, with strong feel for the game on both ends. The shooting game is the concern with Smart, albeit post potential helps raise my skill impact grade for him. I would give the Smart the highest upside of PGs in this class ahead of Burke, McCollum and Smith, but with greater risk than Burke and McCollum. Because of the importance of finding players with star upside, I’d take Smart before the other PGs in this class but would pause at taking him top 5.

Written by jr.

May 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm