Carter-Williams is easily NBA's Rookie of the Year

Carter-Williams is easily NBA's Rookie of the Year
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January 28, 2014, 2:00 pm

MCW leads all rookies in points (17.4), assists (6.7), rebounds (5.6) and steals per game (2.4). (AP)

It was inevitable. Very few rookies avoid having their names associated with the phrase. It happens to almost all of them.

Here’s the thing about the dreaded rookie wall: You can’t hit it unless you’re going full speed. No one is talking about Anthony Bennett hitting the rookie wall. Or Otto Porter. Or Alex Len. All of them were taken ahead of MCW in the 2013 draft. They’ve been forgotten or ignored this season, except when they’ve been criticized.

Not Carter-Williams. He’s been excellent for most of the year, which is why he recently addressed the rookie wall. When you play as well as he did as quickly as he did, and you stumble even for a moment, people want to know what happened to your gait and why.

If you look at MCW’s game log, you’ll notice a few mid-January hiccups: seven points and two assists against the Heat; 10 points and five assists at the Bulls; eight points and four assists vs. the Thunder.

These things happen. Last year’s rookie of the year, Portland’s fantastic point guard Damian Lillard, has also struggled a bit of late. Over the last two weeks, his points, three-pointers, assists, rebounds and three-pointers made per game have all dipped some. And last week, he scored 14 or fewer points in four out of five games.

But since there isn’t a sophomore wall, no one hounded Lillard. No one should have bothered Carter-Williams, either. MCW just put up 22 points and 11 assists against Phoenix. He’s the rookie of the year, and it isn’t close.

Through Tuesday, MCW led all rookies in points (17.4), assists (6.7), rebounds (5.6) and steals per game (2.4). That puts him on pace to become just third rookie since 1950-51 to sweep scoring, assists and rebounding among rookies. The other two: Oscar Robertson in 1960-61 and Alvan Adams in 1975-76.

There’s more. Only three rookies in NBA history have averaged 17 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds for the season: Robertson, Magic Johnson (79-80) and Steve Francis (99-00). OK, fine, toss out the last one. But the first two are excellent company.

There’s even more: The Sixers are 1-10 in games without Carter-Williams. That’s because the offense relies heavily on the standout rookie. MCW has a higher usage rate (the percentage of team plays used by a player when on the floor) than Lillard. Or Chris Paul.

That’s really the best way to explain the kind of year MCW is having. Measure him against some of the other top-tier players in the league and think about this: The last player to average 17 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals per game for a season was Paul in 2008-09. That was his fourth year in the league.

Forget about the wall. It’s nonsense. If you were ranking the current rookie crop, MCW would be at the top of the list. To further illustrate the point, let’s do that.

Rookie Rankings:

1. Michael Carter-Williams: See. Here he is. At the top of the list. His 40.4 percent shooting from the field is really the only criticism, and that should come up over time. Everything else falls somewhere on the spectrum between solid and excellent. If you’re still not sold, or if you have doubts about what he’s accomplished, keep reading and compare his numbers to the rest of his draft class.

2. Victor Oladipo, G, Orlando: Averaging 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3.8 apg. Had a season-high 35 points and eight assists in a loss to Chicago.

T3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, G/F, Milwaukee: Hard name to spell, easy game to like. The Greek Freak is only 19 years old. He’s had ups and downs this season, but part of that is owed to playing for the Bucks, a total tire fire of a basketball team that should probably be disbanded. Despite the hardship, he’s second among rookies in rebounds per game (4.7) and he’s shooting 45 percent from the field. He does a little bit of everything.

T3. Trey Burke, G, Utah: You could move him up a spot or two if you like. The three slots after MCW are up for debate. But after getting a late start to the season because of injury, Burke is second among rookies in assists per game (5.7) and third in points (13.3). He’s shooting just 38.6 percent from the field, though.

5. Pero Antic, C, Atlanta: You know where Pero Antic was drafted? He wasn’t. He’s a 31-year-old rookie and he lands in the top five. Do you see? You must see by now. Anyway, Antic looked solid filling in for Al Horford. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and two three-pointers per game on 49.2 percent shooting from the field in January. Then he broke a bone in his ankle and is currently sidelined for two to four weeks.

6. Tony Snell, G, Chicago: He averaged about 25 minutes per game in December. Then the Bulls traded Luol Deng to Cleveland -- and Snell’s minutes somehow dropped to 20.1 in January. He’s shooting 38 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from three-point range. He hasn’t rebounded (2.1 rpg) or passed (1.1 apg) all that well, and he’s averaging just half a steal per game. But he’s fifth on the list because he has potential and because he’s managed to stand upright without getting in the way most of the time. That’s more than the rest of the guys behind him on this list could manage. Hooray rookie class.

7. C.J. McCollum, G, Portland: A shooter on a good team. Had a broken foot to start the year and has played only about 14 minutes in 10 games.

8. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, G, Detroit: 31.9 minutes per game over his last 10. Averaging 8.4 ppg over that span. He’s coming along.

9. Kelly Olynyk, C, Boston: Averaging 6.6 points and 18.3 minutes per game. How grim. Help.

10. Ryan Kelly, F, LA Lakers: He’s starting to get more minutes (25.9 mpg in his last 10). Hasn’t been terrible (but hasn’t been great), averaging 9.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg in January. I hate this list. Make it stop.

11. Hollis Thompson, F, Sixers: Sure. Whatever. Or put whomever you like here. Just so long as we can end the exercise.