Inside the Sixers: Carter-Williams in rare air among rookies

Posted: January 27, 2014

What 76ers coach Brett Brown likes most about rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams is his competitiveness.

Off the court, Carter-Williams is a quiet young man who is laid back and standoffish.

And on the court . . .

"The competitive side of him when the lights come on, that has surprised me," Brown said at the beginning of the season. "And there's a talent in him that has surprised me."

Now almost three months into the season, he is the favorite to be the NBA rookie of the year. He's also being mentioned in the same breath as Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, and future Hall of Famers Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Shaquille O'Neal.

Most of it stems from Carter-Williams' leading all rookies in scoring (17.6 points per game), assists (6.6), rebounding (5.8), and steals (2.47) as of Friday.

Those are amazing numbers, considering Paul and Wade were the last players to average at least 17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. As a fourth-year player with New Orleans in 2008-09, Paul tallied 22.8 points, 11 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.8 steals. Wade averaged 30.2 points, 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals that season, his sixth in the league.

Robertson, Johnson, and Steve Francis are the only rookies to average at least 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in a season. And Robertson and Alvan Adams are the only players to lead all rookies in points, rebounds, and assists.

Accolades for Carter-Williams go on and on.

Carter-Williams was named Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October/November, becoming the first Sixer to get the award since Iverson in 1997. And he and O'Neal are the only rookies to be Eastern Conference player of the week during the first week of their NBA careers.

But the Sixers' 1-10 record in games he has missed is perhaps the most telling sign of the 6-foot-6, 185-pounder's worth.

These are all the reasons he has turned into a must-see, up-and-coming player on the road.

"It's great," Carter-Williams said of the attention he's receiving. "I'm glad that people support me everywhere we go."

And fans aren't the only ones appreciating what could be a historic season. Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey raved about Carter-Williams before facing the Sixers Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

"His poise, his length, his savvy, his feel for the game," Casey said. "It's very rare that you have a point guard with his length and size that can get things done the way that he does."

Carter-Williams, however, still has a long way to go.

At this stage of his career, it's foolish to classify him as a future Hall of Famer or even a perennial NBA all-star.

He struggles in pick-and-roll defense, frequently complains about no-calls, and needs to learn how to battle through adversity.

But the potential to be one of the league's elite players is there.

"I think about it all the time," Brown said. "I feel a responsibility to help him get to where he has a chance of going [to] whatever his potential is.

"Those names [Robertson and Johnson] are Hall of Fame, the greatest players to ever play this sport. With him, the thing is to continue to challenge him. . . . I think the ceiling is extremely high."

Inside the Sixers: Rookie Rarity

The 76ers' Michael Carter-Williams leads all rookies this season in points, assists, and rebounds per game. He would be the third player to accomplish that feat after Oscar Robertson and Alvan Adams. He would be the fourth rookie to average at least 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in a season (Robertson, Magic Johnson, Steve Francis). Here is a look at those players' seasons:

Player, season   Ppg.   Apg.   Rpg.   

Oscar Robertson, 1960-61   30.5   9.7   10.1   

Alvan Adams, 1975-76   19.0   5.6   9.1   

Magic Johnson, 1979-80   18.0   7.3   7.7   

Steve Francis, 1999-2000   18.0   6.6   5.3   

Michael Carter-Williams, 2013-14*   17.6   6.6   5.8   

* - through Friday - Keith Pompey