As exciting as the first month-plus of Philadelphia 76ers rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams' career has been, we're long-trained as sports fans to be a little wary of any hot start by an athlete that seems a little bit too good to be true. After all, MCW was taken with the 11th pick in a historically weak draft, his college stats were good but flawed, and he struggled for most of the pre-season. It seems inevitable that sooner or later, he'll turn out to be over-achieving and regress to the kind of subpar rookie numbers we expected of him as he learned to adjust to the pro game, right?
Well. ESPN recently released their annual Top 25 Under 25 ranking for NBA players for players they'd most like to build around, and as is probably warranted giving his incredible rookie season, the 22-year-old Carter-Williams placed #15 on the list--five spots higher than Jrue Holiday, the man he replaced as Sixers PG, it should probably be noted. That's cool, and it's good to still have someone from the Sixers on the list, now that Jrue is gone and Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner have aged out of eligibility, and Nerlens Noel is still a ways away from being able to prove himself worthy.
But what's really notable about MCW's appearance on the list is the blurb in his entry from ESPN analytics expert Kevin Pelton. At the end of each player's write-up, Pelton writes a little about each players' likely future development (based on the findings of his SCHOENE projection system), and what type of player they're likely to evolve into--although, in the cases of some players, like Detroit's Greg Monroe and L.A.'s Blake Griffin, he says that they've basically topped out, and what you see with them is probably already about as good as it's gonna get.
That, however, is not what he has to say about Michael Carter-Williams:
SCHOENE's five most similar players to Carter-Williams: [Penny Hardaway], Baron Davis, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd. We might have ranked him too low.
Woah. Five All-Stars, at least a couple of whom are likely future Hall-of-Famers, and really, five of the most exciting players to watch of the last 20 years of NBA hoops. And...we have a guy like this on our roster? The third-year Syracuse alum we took 11th in the worst draft ever, who can't really shoot or anything? The guy who Bill Simmons predicted was gonna lose his job to Nate Wolters by the end of the season when it looked like we were drafting Wolters in the second round?
OK, so SCHOENE can't literally predict the future--at least not with 100% guaranteed accuracy--and just assuming MCW is gonna follow the career paths of those five franchise talents because the first 15 games of his career started out like theirs is probably a little foolhardy. Still, to hear that MCW not only isn't being predicted by the NBA smart guys to collapse before season's end, but that he really might only be scratching the surface of his pro potential...goddamn, that's something to get excited about.
The lesson here, as always: Sam Hinkie is the true Fifth Beatle, and should be worshipped accordingly.