Carter-Williams bugged by another injury
Each week we'll ask questions about the Sixers to our resident basketball analysts and see what they have to say.
Running the Give and Go this week are CSNPhilly.com’ Sixers Insider Dei Lynam, CSN anchor Amy Fadool and CSN producer Sean Kane.
Let’s get down to business:
Is Carter-Williams a lock for Rookie of the Year?
Lynam: Michael Carter-Williams is the frontrunner for sure, but we are only 19 games into the season and health is a concern.
Carter-Williams will miss his fifth game of the season Friday because of a sore right knee. Head coach Brett Brown said he envisions MCW playing Saturday against Denver.
The Sixers’ PG ranks first in points (17.7), rebounds (5.8), assists (7.3), steals (3.1) and minutes per game (36.7) among his rookie peers. If the award were handed out today, he’d earn it. However, he needs to stay healthy to be on the court.
Fadool: Carter-Williams is certainly in the discussion. Unlike some other rookies, MCW is a starter and is taking advantage of those quality minutes on a team that needs him to be a star.
Carter-Williams’ real competition for Rookie of the Year is the player who posted his first triple-double the same night MCW posted his: Victor Oladipo. It was the first time in NBA history that two rookies posted triple-doubles in the same game. Like MCW, Oladipo is taking advantage of his minutes on the court. He’s started eight of the Magic’s 18 games and is averaging 13.9 points in 29.9 minutes.
Still, Carter-Williams’ numbers are more impressive. He’s averaging 17.7 points, and of the 15 games he’s played for the Sixers, he has started every one. The fact that he’s doing so well in his extended minutes is what could earn him the Rookie of the Year award.
Kane: The early frontrunner, yes, but he’s not a lock. It's a two-horse race between Carter-Williams and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo.
Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick, has been an unmitigated disaster in Cleveland, while Cody Zeller and Ben McLemore have struggled. Then there are Alex Len, Otto Porter and Nerlens Noel, who either have played sparingly due to injury or, in Porter and Noel's case, haven't played at all.
Carter-Williams has been nothing short of terrific for the Sixers. He leads all rookies in scoring at 17.7 points per game to go along with 7.3 assists, 5.8 assists and 3.1 steals a contest. But the biggest threat to his candidacy may be his ability to stay healthy.
Friday's game will mark the fifth game MCW has missed with a balky knee that will likely also sideline him Saturday at home against the Nuggets. If the injuries keep piling up, look for Oladipo to make a strong push. He showed what he's capable of Tuesday by matching Carter-Williams with a triple-double of his own.
Should the Sixers mix up their fast-paced style more often?
Lynam: Absolutely not. Their style is the reason they have seven wins so far this season. They are not talented enough to beat the more experienced teams that have depth. Pushing the pace does, at times, lead to sloppy play, but because of their youth and fitness, the Sixers seem to outlast many opponents and/or stay within striking distance. It is also a fun style to watch, which is the buzz on social media sites when fans talk about Brown’s squad.
Fadool: The Sixers’ up-tempo style is something interesting to watch. While it can be entertaining with fast breaks and higher scoring games, it just doesn’t seem to be working well for the team on the defensive end of the ball.
There has been a push by some Eastern Conference teams to play a bit more like those from the West, a conference in which point totals are high and defense seems optional at times. But the issue I have with the Sixers trying to play more up-tempo is that they don’t necessarily have the horses to run with true up-tempo teams, especially for the full 48 minutes. It’s not just conditioning, but also changing the personnel, and changing the mindset of your current personnel.
So while the Sixers are sixth in the league in overall scoring with 104.2 points per game entering Friday’s game against the Bobcats, they are allowing 110.8 points a game, far and away the most in the NBA. So, I think Brown may be looking to alternate between an up-tempo style and a more conventional offense, as it may improve the team’s defense, especially in transition.
How do you feel about Thompson moving into the starting lineup?
Lynam: Hollis Thompson made his third consecutive start Friday against the Bobcats. Last Sunday in Detroit, Brown inserted Thompson into the starting lineup for defensive purposes, allowing James Anderson to provide a spark off the bench.
The Sixers’ defense certainly is lacking. They allow the most points in the league, have the fifth-worst opponents’ field goal percentage and have allowed the most three-pointers in the NBA with 198.
Brown sees this season as a year to experiment and is also encouraged, so he can learn things about creating a better team down the line. He wants at least a five-game sample before evaluating how this move has panned out.
So far, it hasn’t hurt the team, and it has certainly helped Anderson. He is a combined 10 of 18 from the field for 30 points in the two games he has come off the bench after scoring a total of 11 games in the two matchups prior to the switch.
Fadool: People on the outside will look at this and say it’s clear evidence of the Sixers “tanking” the season, but I like the move. I think when you see a player struggling a lineup shakeup can be just what the doctor ordered.
Thompson got the start Sunday over Anderson, who had been in a shooting slump since his hot start to the season. In Thompson’s last six games -- two starts – he is averaging 25.6 minutes with 9.0 points and is shooting 56 percent from the field. Thompson’s work ethic is impressive, even if you just think that this time last year he was playing in the NBA D-League.
I am intrigued to see what he can do with regular starter’s minutes. He makes sound decisions on the basketball court, and seems to be careful in his shot selection. I would like for Thompson to look for his shot a little more, but that should come with the confidence of getting more minutes.
Kane: I liked the move at the time and like it even more now. Thompson has responded well to his new role -- bringing energy, production and a surprisingly efficient shooting stroke to the starting lineup. He also allows Brown to play bigger at the start of games without losing much in the scoring department.
I watched a lot of Thompson at Georgetown and was always impressed with his game. Like most frontcourt players from Georgetown, he has a well-rounded skill set and a high basketball IQ. He understands the game and has a knack for making winning plays. I expect more of the same from Thompson at the pro level, especially as his minutes continue to increase.