Draft Projection: No. 13: New Orleans Pelicans
Notes: Insider Only
Positives: Insider Only
Negatives: Insider Only
Summary: June 26 Update: While McCollum is a scorer and Burke a balanced scorer/distributor, Carter-Williams is the purest point guard in the draft. He sees things before they happen on both ends of the floor, excels at using his length and quickness to get to the basket and towers over the competition with his size. If he could shoot, he would jump up the draft boards.
Quick fact: Carter-Williams assisted on 40 percent of Syracuse's made field goals while on the floor, 10th in the nation.
June 25 Update: The Blazers drafted a point guard last year, but they wouldn't hesitate to do it again if Carter-Williams slides. They'd prefer C.J. McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but Carter-Williams would do. He has great size for his position, which should allow the Blazers to play both him and Damian Lillard on the floor together. Cody Zeller and Steven Adams are also possibilities here.
June 24 Update: Carter-Williams has been chasing Burke in the point guard rankings for months, and once again he's right behind Burke on our Secret NBA Draft Big Board. Some teams love him and others think he'll be a bust -- he received an 8 or a 9 from about half the teams in our survey (more than Burke) but also was rated as low as 3 and 4 on other ballots. As one of the most polarizing players on the board, his draft night range appears to be wide as well -- he could go as early as No. 5 or as late as No. 14.
June 18 Update: The good news: The Kings finally have a general manager in Pete D'Alessandro. The bad news: He started on Monday, which is after the Kings had completed workouts with most of the prospects in their range. So, either the Kings drag players back to Sacramento, or new coach Mike Malone and owner Vivek Ranadive will be heavily influencing the call.
From what I can gather, UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad had the best workout, though the Kings weren't particularly high on him prior to that. The team loved Carter-Williams before he came in, but weren't impressed with his workout. Sounds as if Trey Burke isn't particularly high on their list, either. Ditto for C.J. McCollum.
I'm not sure what to make of all that, but here's the best I can do: One of the biggest reasons the Kings hired D'Alessandro was because of his analytics work. Muhammad looks horrible in virtually every analytics model I've seen. Carter-Williams looks good in almost of all of them.
June 10 Update: Carter-Williams continues to make the case that he's the top point guard prospect in the draft. He worked out for the Suns on Thursday and the Kings on Saturday against McCollum, and seems to be gaining momentum thanks to his strong advanced metrics and physical profile. He looks to be firmly in the mix for both the Kings and Pistons. If he gets by both teams, I doubt he slides past the Jazz at No. 14.
May 28 Update: Unlike Trey Burke, Carter-Williams appears to be regaining some of his luster of late. His athletic testing and measurements at the combine were both impressive. And if he shoots as well in future workouts as he did in a private workout on Friday (watch the video), he could provide a compelling case for teams that value size and athleticism at the position. I could see him going as high as No. 2 overall to the Magic, and the Pelicans, Pistons and Mavs are also showing significant interest.
May 27 Update: For much of November, December and January, Carter-Williams was the No. 1-ranked point guard on our Big Board. After a quiet freshman season at Syracuse, he stormed onto the scene as a sophomore, surprising many with his elite court vision and point guard skills for a player his size.
Carter-Williams wowed early in the season with a sixth sense for seeing plays develop on both ends of the court. By early January he was averaging 10 assists and nearly three steals per game as Syracuse got off to a 14-1 start.
Once he was mired in Big East play, however, his assist totals started to fall, his turnovers rose and his shooting percentage plummeted. After securing assist totals of 10 or more in nine of his first 15 games, he had 10-plus assists only twice after Jan. 2 -- and both games were against the weakest competition in the Big East.
By mid-March, some scouts began to suggest that Carter-Williams had damaged his draft stock to the point that he had to return to school. However, a solid performance in the NCAA tournament, capped by a 24-point outing against Indiana (before a miserable 2-point elimination game against Michigan) raised the question -- is Carter-Williams still the best NBA point guard prospect?
For those who argue yes, they start with his physical profile. At 6-foot-6, Carter-Williams is the tallest point guard in the draft and would be one of the tallest in the NBA. While most big point guards are really 2-guards masquerading as point guards (we're looking at you, Tyreke Evans), Carter-Williams is a true point who sees the floor and gets others involved. In addition to his size, Carter-Williams is a very good athlete with an impressive 41-inch vertical jump and good scores in both the sprint and lane agility drills. He's also a nightmare on the defensive end, using his length and quickness to average 2.8 steals per game.
Those who complain about Carter-Williams primarily pick apart his jump shot. Carter-Williams shot just 38 percent from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line. Thirty-nine percent of Carter-Williams shots were 2-point jumpers and he shot a miserable 29 percent from the field -- the same percentage he shot on 3-pointers. If he can't fix the jumper, could a team really take him in the top 10?
The good news from the workout is that Carter-Williams' shot looks far from broken. He's been tweaking the mechanics here and there, but for the most part, there doesn't seem to be anything fundamentally wrong with his form. He just needs to become more consistent in his release point. In the workout I saw (full disclosure, he was one-on-none in a gym with Hernandez feeding him the ball), he shot about 55 percent from NBA 3-point range, 65 percent from the college 3, and 80 percent from around 15 feet. While elite shooters will do much better than this in an empty gym, those are good numbers.
If his shot isn't broken, he is an intriguing prospect. His quickness, tight handle and length allow him to get by virtually all defenders. His ballhandling drills were fantastic for a player his size. Ditto on the drills where he was driving to the basket. That size and athletic ability allow him to explode around the rim.
Carter-Williams was terrific when he got to the rim at Syracuse. Last season, 31 percent of his shots were at the rim and he connected on 62 percent of them. The ability to get by your man and to the rim is a critical skill in the NBA, and after watching Carter-Williams do it all season against some of the best college defenders in the country, scouts are pretty confident he can do it at the next level.
Carter-Williams is the best passing guard in the draft, and he has elite size and excellent athleticism. He has a strong basketball background (both his mother and stepfather are high school basketball coaches). If scouts believe that his shot will get better, you have to put him in the equation with Burke for the top PG position on the board. He's less polished and has more questions, but the physical profile gives him a big advantage at the next level. If Carter-Williams can shoot the ball as he did at the workout I saw, I could see a team like the Magic or Pelicans grabbing him -- even ahead of Burke.
May 15 Update: Carter-Williams has been in New York the last month working on one critical skill -- his jump shot. Word out of the gym is that he's tweaked his mechanics and is shooting much better, and the draft combine should be the time to show it. However, like most potential lottery picks, Carter-Williams is unlikely to participate in the drills portion of the combine.
Carter-Williams also will get his fair share of questions in the interviews about the shoplifting incident last winter. From what I gather, the explanation is pretty innocuous, but NBA teams will ask harder questions.
May 8 Update (Projected No. 16 pick, Boston Celtics): With Rajon Rondo's future up in the air, Carter-Williams could be a very good pick here. The Celtics already are accustomed to having a long, athletic point guard who can't shoot. His size would allow him to share the backcourt with Avery Bradley. Some scouts have Carter-Williams ranked as high as No. 5 on their boards, so landing him at No. 16 would be a steal.
May 2 Update: Carter-Williams is another player who continues to inspire debate. Some are sold on his playmaking ability and size at the point guard position. Others are deeply concerned about his jump shot and overall feel for the game. His draft range is pretty wide, probably somewhere between Nos. 5 and 15. The Pelicans, Thunder, Mavericks and Jazz are all potential homes for him in the lottery.
Apr 10 Update: Carter-Williams announced that he's declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft. The biggest question for NBA scouts with Carter-Williams is which prospect is he? Is he the player who shined through much of November and December and again in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament as a 6-6 Shaun Livingston clone who saw the floor, had a tight handle and could use his length and speed to get to the basket? Or was he the Carter-Williams of Big East play and the Final Four who struggled mightily with his jump shot and costly turnovers? Right now they are splitting things down the middle and calling him a likely late lottery pick. The talent is there and NBA teams love big point guards, but he's got to work on that jump shot.
Apr 2 Update: arter-Williams did a great job of quieting his critics again this week with two stellar games against Indiana and Marquette. In the win against the Hoosiers, he scored a game-high 24 points and hit three 3-pointers while picking up four steals on the defensive end. Against Marquette, he showed a complete floor game -- 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals and knocked down another big 3-pointer.
Carter-Williams started the season on a high, struggled in February and early March, but he is back to playing great basketball at the most important time of the year. On Saturday, if he can get the best of Burke and help Syracuse get to the national championship game, there's a chance he hears his name called before Burke's on draft night.
Mar 26 Update: The chorus of skeptics about Carter-Williams continues to grow despite a few solid efforts for Syracuse over the past few weeks. He had nine assists in the Big East final, put up another nine assists against Montana in the second round of the NCAA tournament and scored 12 points, including a few impressive drives to the basket, in a win against Cal. Syracuse is now pitted against Indiana in the Sweet 16. Victor Oladipo awaits. A strong showing against Indiana could help propel Carter-Williams back into the Top 10.
Mar 13 Update: Syracuse's downward spiral hasn't helped Carter-Williams' stock much. His assist numbers have plummeted; his turnovers have increased; and, although he has shot the ball a little better from the field, he's still struggling to hit anything from beyond the arc. A number of GMs are still very high on his long-term potential, but he's already two years older than most of the players in his class. His age is holding teams back as much as anything.
Feb 27 Update: Has Michael Carter-Williams peaked? His shooting percentages and assist totals have plummeted in Big East play. Carter-Williams had 10 or more assists in nine of his first fourteen games. Since then, he's had just one, a 12-assist performance against Providence. And he's only shot 50 percent or better from the floor twice since January 2 (against Cincinnati and Providence). With the Orange just 4-5 in their past nine games, more and more scouts are beginning to wonder if Carter-Williams is really ready to run a NBA team.
Jan 30 Update: Carter-Williams remains holding on, perilously, to the top spot in our point guard rankings despite recent uneven play. He shot just 4-for-13 against Louisville and had eight turnovers in the game but also came up with a couple of huge steals at the end of the game and one terrific dunk that put Syracuse in the win column. He shot the ball better against Cincinnati before going just 4-for-17 from the field against Villanova. With his assist totals dropping, his turnovers rising and his jump shot struggling to fall in conference play, the Carter-Williams bandwagon is slowing down, but he remains a very intriguing draft prospect.
Dec 17 Update: Carter-Williams is clearly the best point guard in the country and a player capable of going in the top five on draft night. But I'm hesitant to put him that high for a couple of reasons. First, he's already 21 years old and will be 22 before he plays his first game in the NBA. Many of the players in his class are two years younger than he is, and age really matters to NBA talent evaluators. Second, NBA teams are taking a wait-and-see approach with Carter-Williams; they want to see him play against a tough, physical Big East schedule before they write him into the top five.
Dec 14 Update: Carter-Williams hardly played as a freshman and wasn't seriously considered as a one-and-done prospect last season. This season, he has quietly, and somewhat miraculously, turned into the top point guard prospect in the draft. Coming into this season, I didn't hear one NBA scout peg him as a true point guard. While many scouts were very high on him, they saw him more as a wing in the Rip Hamilton mode. Needless to say, he has been awesome. I broke him down in depth in my article on top point guards with Jay Bilas on Monday. But factor his size, his elite passing abilities, his athleticism and the potential of his offensive game and he could go very high. He's No. 10 on our Big Board, but he could easily end up in the top 5 in June.
Dec 10 Update: If you are talking about the best long-term NBA prospect in the country, that's looking more and more like Syracuse's Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams not only leads the NCAA in assists, but his assist ratio (the percentage of a player's possessions that end in an assist) is an incredible 39.4. In other words, nearly 40 percent of his possessions end in an assist. He's a hawk on the defensive end as well, averaging 3.8 steals per game (third in the NCAA). He can be a gifted scorer and his size (6-foot-6, 185 pounds) for the position is outstanding.
Carter-Williams has Kendall Marshall-type floor vision with more size, more athleticism and more offense. Given that Marshall was a lottery pick in a stronger draft last year, that bodes really well for Carter-Williams' chances in the 2013 NBA draft. Currently, we have Carter-Williams ranked as the top point guard prospect on our Big Board and have him ranked overall as a top-10 pick. If he ever finds his shooting stroke, he could end up in the top five on draft night.
Dec 3 Update: After watching him go head-to-head Friday with future lottery pick BJ Young of Arkansas, I'm convinced Carter-Williams also could end up as a lottery pick in the 2013 draft. If he starts knocking down jumpers, he'll have the entire package. There is a lot to love about his game, and with so few point guards at the top, an NBA team could easily fall in love with Carter-Williams. He's got a chance to be the first point guard taken in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Oct 7 Update: This Rip Hamilton clone didn't get a lot of chances to shine as a freshman. But with Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine gone, Carter-Williams could become the focal point of the offense this year. With his length, he could be a big-time sleeper this year.
Mar 31 Update: Carter-Williams is one of the best scorers in his class. His rail-thin frame needs a lot of work, but his scoring ability reminds some of a young Richard Hamilton. A potential first-round pick.