Rewinding the process: Michael Carter-Williams’ fall from stardom


The date was October 30th, 2013. The Sixers were hosting the defending champion Miami Heat to kick off the new season. After struggling the year before, the mood around the Wells Fargo Center was not necessarily optimistic (especially with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh pulling into town).

However, the team had gone and switched coaches over the offseason, opting to move forward with a young and exciting assistant from San Antonio (Brett Brown). On top of this, the Sixers had also spent their 11th overall pick on a brand new point guard to replace the beloved Jrue Holiday.

In his NBA debut, against the best team in basketball, 76ers rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams would lead his new team to victory by posting 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, and nine steals. “MCW” went toe-to-toe with LeBron James all night long, shocking the basketball world.

MCW would continue to have a very impressive first season in the NBA. Finishing the year averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, Carter-Williams would go on to capture the league’s “Rookie of the Year” award. Proving useful in a variety of different ways, it truly looked like the Sixers had found their next franchise star.

MCW underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason following his rookie year, but would return to action just a month after the 2014-15 season kicked off. Despite a slight dip in overall production, Carter-Williams’ performances mirrored what he did the year prior.

However, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie clearly didn’t like what he saw. After playing just 41 games in his second season, MCW was traded away to Milwaukee. Hinkie received a future first-round pick in the deal.

Despite the abrupt change in scenery, many were still optimistic for Carter-Williams’ future. Initially starting off solid with the Bucks, people began questioning if the Sixers had made a mistake. However, in his second year with Milwaukee, MCW would injure his hip and miss the majority of the season.

Over the next three years, Carter-Williams would bounce around the NBA, never able to land a legit spot in a team’s rotation. Traded from Milwaukee to the Bulls, MCW would see his points per game essentially be cut in half. He injured his knee again, sprained his wrist, and then tore his shoulder in 2018 after signing with the Charlotte Hornets.

Five full years removed from his award-winning rookie season, MCW signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent. After just 16 uneventful games in Houston, MCW was once again traded to the Bulls, however this time he was immediately released following the conclusion of the deal.

Now just a “street free agent”, Carter-Williams signed a 10-day contract with the Orlando Magic. Despite not doing a whole lot during these ten days, the Magic felt comfortable extending his contract into the 2019-2020 season.

Carter-Williams has played in 42 games thus far this season, and while he hasn’t looked *great* by any stretch of the imagination, he’s solidified himself as a solid enough backup point guard. Averaging 7.2 points per game on 43.4% shooting, it’s easily been his best year since his days in Milwaukee.

Despite baffling fans at the time, the decision to flip Carter-Williams for a first round pick back in 2014 has proven to be one of Hinkie’s greatest heists as general manager. While he did put up special numbers as a 76er, it’s clear the PG out of Syracuse never had the talent, or the durability, to be a legit franchise centerpiece.

At 28 years old, it’s unlikely MCW ever takes any more steps forward in his NBA career. Considering his lack of a jump shot as well, it’s also unlikely he’ll last too deep into his 30s. Settling into a nice backup role on a non-contender team like the Magic seems like as good of a fit as the former Sixer could ask for right now.

Check out some of the other entries in our “Rewinding the Process” series:

Nerlens Noel:

Hollis Thompson:

Jahlil Okafor:

Dario Saric:

Nik Stauskas:

Mandatory Credit – © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports