2013/2014 was a weird time in history. Sharknado 2 came out, Manti Te’o had a fake girlfriend, and perhaps strangest of all: Michael Carter-Williams looked like an above-average NBA player. On a defining night in Sixers history, MCW was taken with the 11th overall pick in the draft after Jrue Holiday was shipped to the Pelicans for Nerlans Noel and a protected 1st round pick. While Noel spent the year recovering from a torn ACL, Carter-Williams looked to be a bright spot that they managed to land. While his career has taken a turn for the worst in recent years, MCW played beyond the level of what anyone could have imagined in his 2 years here in Philly.
His potential was put on display right out of the gate as a rookie. In his first career game, he scored 22 points, with 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals in a win over the Big 3 Miami Heat. Those 9 steals are still an NBA record for most steals in a debut.
Despite the Sixers winning just 19 games his rookie year, MCW found a way to shine. In the 70 games he played in his rookie season, Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. He led all rookies in these 4 categories and was ultimately crowned Rookie of the Year. Magic Johnson and Oscar Robinson are the only other 2 players in NBA history to average over 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game in their rookie year- putting him in some extremely impressive company.
Carter-Williams was forced to undergo shoulder surgery in the offseason and missed all of training camp as well as the beginning of the regular season going into his 2nd year. Despite this, expectations were sky-high for MCW and he did not disappoint. In the 41 games he played with the Sixers he poured in 15 points per game, along with 7.4 assists, and 6.2 rebounds before being shipped.
The trade sent Carter-Williams to the Bucks and landed the Sixers a first-round pick from the Lakers. It was kept from us for a few years due to protections but eventually turned into the pick that was used to select Mikal Bridges, who was then traded for Zhaire Smith. Despite shining with all the opportunity he was given in these dreadful seasons, MCW was never able to convince Sam Hinkie that he was worth building around and it turns out he was right.
After leaving Philly, Carter-Williams’ career took a sharp turn south. His stats went down in Milwaukee each of the 2 and a half years he was there until he was ultimately benched for (another Process name) Jerryd Bayless. Since then MCW has bounced to the Bulls, Hornets, Rockets, and Magic. He has played for 6 teams in 9 years and has not started on a regular basis since 2016. He is now 28 and should be in the prime of his career, but played just 18 minutes per game averaging just over 7 points and 2 assists per game with the Magic this year. His ability to shoot has always been what has held him back the most and while the 29% rate he made 3’s at his rookie year was nothing to brag about, his career average now sits around 25% with him shooting as low as 14% one year in Milwaukee.
Michael Carter-Williams is one of the biggest flashes in the pan in recent Philly sports history. He looks a shell of his former self nowadays, but it should not be forgotten the stretches of dominance we saw when he has the Sixer uniform on. His 6’6 frame screamed mismatch on the court and his defensive prowess seemed especially exciting. It obliviously was the right call to move on from him when we did but the potential that he showed in his brief stint as a Sixer should not be forgotten
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Lifelong Philly Sports fan and current college student at Alvernia University. Writes about Sixers and Phillies and Co-Host of Pick Swap Podcast
Twitter: @Sean_Barnard1 and @PickSwapPod