After blowing up during his sophomore season at Syracuse, Michael Carter-Williams is in theory that rare breed of point guard. Standing 6-foot-5, he’s a truly elite playmaker whose 7.3 assists per game during his 2012-13 season came by playing a very NBA-like style. He can pass with the left or right and has the ball handling abilities that are excellent for a player his size.
Carter-Williams projects as a great pick-and-roll player, and his height and 6-foot-7 wingspan gives him the ability to make passes around and over defenders. Additionally, he’s a solid athlete who again has the skillset to be a great dribble-drive scorer if the help defense doesn’t come.
A small sample size makes Carter-Williams a mystery. Even though he played well and succeeded in the Big East, he played only 10 minutes per game as a freshman and likely has a steeper learning curve simply because of his limited experience. At 21 years old, Carter-Williams isn’t as young as a sophomore might normally be, however.
Strength might be an issue as well. He weighed in at 184 pounds at the combine, and on Thursday Carter-Williams defended his stature with how well he performed in the Big East.
“The Big East is physical,” Carter-Williams said. “The guys there are big and strong …. it prepared me for the best.”
To his defense, Carter-Williams did bench press at the combine eight times.
Skill-wise, the biggest issue for the former Orangeman comes in his jump shot and lack of scoring ability. He averaged 11.9 points per game as a sophomore but shot below 40 percent from the floor and below 30 percent from the college three-point line. His 69.4 percent free throw shooting was also an indicator of his work-in-progress shot.
The ability for Carter-Williams to progress and mature will likely swing his draft stock and NBA future. He has all the tools to become a very good NBA player but his lack of a jumper is the most indicative of the room to grow. By all accounts, he can and will improve, which is why the Suns worked out Carter-Williams and why his projected stock is where it is – in the lottery.
And if any of his question marks need be answered before June 27, working out with fellow Thursday Suns workout attendee C.J. McCollum in Long Island to prepare for the draft is a good start. McCollum, a senior who played at LeHigh, is probably as good a workout partner for Carter-Williams because his strengths — shooting and maturity — are the Orangeman’s weaknesses.
How he’ll fit with the Suns
Phoenix worked out some of the draft’s best point guards because they’re going to take the best available player. If Carter-Williams ends up competing with Goran Dragic or Kendall Marshall, the development of either of the younger two players would give the Suns options for trade. And he truly is a combination of both Dragic and Marshall – he’ll be an attacking scoring point guard a la Dragic once he adds strength but also has something close to Marshall’s passing ability.
And if the jump shot is the only thing to really change how good he can be, there’s no better fit than giving coach Jeff Hornacek a project to start with on a ground-up type of way.
And 1 … a second-rounder to consider
How about Missouri point guard Phil Pressey? The Suns worked him out on Friday, and if the team is looking for a third point guard should they not hand Diante Garrett a contract for next year – or draft a point guard with the other two picks – he could be a steal. While a bit undersized, Pressey was one of college basketball’s most respected point guards coming into last season. His stock fell as quickly as Missouri’s season, but he already displayed a Chris Paul-like control as a point guard for the Tigers.
Matthew Dellavedova — G 6-4, 185 pounds (senior, St. Mary’s)
Ian Hummer — F 6-7, 230 pounds (senior, Princeton)
CJ Leslie — F 6-9, 209 pounds (junior, NC State)
Korie Lucious — G 5-11, 170 (senior, Iowa State)
Rodney McGruder — G 6-5, 201 pounds (senior, Kansas State)
Phil Pressey — G 5-11, 177 pounds (junior, Missouri)