Michael Carter-Williams has had many old faces in his young career. After winning Rookie of the Year in 2013-14, MCW’s career has taken a nosedive and has been barely surviving in the league by signing one-year minimum deals to stay in the league. His stop with the Houston Rockets will mark his fifth team in five seasons. MCW is hoping his Houston stop on his NBA tour will be a renaissance for him and hopefully last longer than a season, though he will be a free agent next summer.
There was a lot of surprise when the interest for MCW was reported in the early hours of free agency on July 1. Why go after MICHAEL CARTER-FREAKING-WILLIAMS when he might not garner any interest from anybody else? But the quick interest must mean Daryl Morey and the gang see something about him that we, or his last team, the Charlotte Hornets, did not.
We spoke to Charlotte’s SB Nation blog At the Hive and discussed how MCW could fit with the Rockets. Huge thanks to Nick Denning (@nickdenning) and Dylan Jackson (@JaxonNBA) for participating and providing their insight on MCW.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Are the Rockets a good fit for Carter-Williams? If so, why?
Nick Denning, At The Hive: First, let me preface this by saying that MCW had a nightmare season with the Hornets. I mean, almost everyone on the Hornets played poorly, but MCW ended up as Enemy No. 1 among many fans. A lot of the criticism was unfair, and it largely stemmed from the fact that he was playing over rookie Malik Monk, but he was tough to watch. Moving on after the season was always going to happen, but I didn’t see him landing with a team like Houston. It’s surprising, but it just might work.
MCW needs scorers and shooters around him. In Charlotte, he didn’t have enough, particularly when he was playing with the bench unit. The Rockets certainly have plenty, so they should be a better fit. That said, I just wonder if he’s a good fit for the Rockets? He isn’t a good jump shooter, so teams are going to sag off on him, and I’m curious how the team will adjust for that.
Dylan Jackson, At the Hive: If anyone is able to maximize Michael Carter-Williams’ offensive game, it is probably Mike D’Antoni. Granted, MCW was not spectacular by any means for the Hornets last year, but his defense and length should definitely help the Rockets on that end of the floor.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Earlier in his career, MCW was seen as a point guard, but the Rockets are viewing him more as a wing. Is this a better representation of him as a player?
Nick Denning, At the Hive: Well, his representation as a point guard last season wasn’t great, so it makes some sense that they will try him on the wing. He has the size and length to defend multiple positions, and not having to instigate the offense will lower his responsibilities. If he can stick to moving the ball, limiting the amount of shots he takes, and playing solid defense, then he could work as a wing.
Dylan Jackson, At the Hive: Carter-Williams certainly has the length to play on the wing. However, a lot of MCW’s offensive game is reliant on his vision and passing. If you restrict that, Carter-Williams might be sitting in the corner on offense more than not. Again, defensively, this is a nice fit.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is MCW’s biggest risk or weakness?
Nick Denning, At the Hive: His outside shooting has always been poor, but what surprised me last season was how poor he was finishing at the rim. He made just 42.4 percent of his layups last season (by comparison, Kemba Walker made 51.1 percent and James Harden made 57.1). It got so bad that somebody made a Youtube compilation (and this was only through December).
Looking back at his percentages from other seasons, however, I believe his struggles at the rim came largely from a lack of confidence. He got hurt in preseason and missed the start of the regular season. When he returned, the team was without Nicolas Batum, which put more pressure on the rest of the team to make up for Batum’s unique skill set as a playmaker (which they couldn’t).
On top of that, he was playing with only one reliable scorer off the bench -- Jeremy Lamb. Frank Kaminsky was too inconsistent, Trevon Graham was good for one open three-pointer a game, and Cody Zeller has never been an impactful post scorer. So with only one reliable option, I think MCW tried to compensate as the primary ballhander, and that turned out badly.
Dylan Jackson, At the Hive: His biggest weakness is his efficiency. For the Hornets in 2017-18, he shot a 32 percent from the field (mostly on missed layups). However, as I stated earlier, if anyone is able to maximize MCW’s offensive game, it is Mike D’Antoni.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is MCW’s biggest strength?
Nick Denning, At the Hive: As I mentioned earlier, his size and length allow him to guard multiple positions. Overall, he’s a solid defensive player. The numbers won’t show it in Charlotte, but the reason he continued to play over Malik Monk was due to his defense. It wasn’t great, but he had stretches where he made an impact. I think with a better roster around him, he could be able to be a net positive on defense.
Dylan Jackson, At the Hive: Michael Carter-Williams best strength is his ability to defend the pick-and-roll. According to Synergy Sports, MCW was in the 68th percentile when guarding the PNR ball-handler. He was also great guarding spot-up jump shots, where he was in the 68th percentile.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is your projection for MCW this season?
Nick Denning, At the Hive: Best case scenario -- he plays as a solid wing defender that isn’t relied upon to score or facilitate the offense. His numbers won’t look great, but the Rockets are better defensively when he’s on the floor.
Worst case scenario -- watch his missed layup compilation.
Dylan Jackson, At the Hive: I don’t expect Carter-Williams to do much for the Houston Rockets, especially if Carmelo Anthony does indeed join the team. MCW will likely play in garbage time for the Houston Rockets unless he miraculously has some sort of career revitalization. (Also, expect some missed lay-ups).
To read the earlier parts of our ‘New Faces from Old Places’ series, click here: