Carter-Williams growing as a player

Posted: April 12, 2014

TORONTO - Michael Carter-Williams is recognized as the NBA's best rookie but not necessarily for his ability to lead a franchise.

Based on the point guard's recent performances, his recognition may widen over time.

"He's been a true floor general," said Sixers power forward Thaddeus Young, whose squad will face the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday at FedExForum.

In his first career game, Carter-Williams was so good (22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals) that Hall of Famer Magic Johnson instantly named him the rookie of year. And with just a few games left this season, Carter-Williams is the runaway favorite to win that award.

The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder leads all rookies in scoring (16.7 points), assists (6.3), rebounds (6.1), and steals (1.9).

True point guard

For all of his exploits, he will still be a secondary scoring option once the Sixers (17-61) are finished rebuilding. So the franchise needs Carter-Williams to run the show as a true point guard. Before the last month, he was having trouble recognizing disguised defenses and defending the pick-and-roll.

Now the game has appeared to slow down for the 11th overall pick out of Syracuse. He's playing better defense, shooting a higher percentage, and has become the unquestioned team leader.

"Throughout this whole season, I've been telling you guys, [for] Coach [Brett Brown] and the rest of my teammates this year is a big learning experience for all of us," Carter-Williams said. "I'm just trying to learn throughout the season."

The Hamilton, Mass., native has been more assertive in play-calling and in his play.

He finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in Wednesday night's 125-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. In the last six games, he averaged 19 points on 52.5 percent shooting after averaging 9.3 points on 22.2 percent shooting in the previous three contests.

Hot March

In March, Carter-Williams averaged 14.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.5 assists to become the first rookie to average at least 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in a month since Grant Hill (23.8, 8.9, and 6.3 in April 1995).

"He has learned how to take a system that we haven't . . . altered anything and get . . . comfortable on how to maximize it for himself and the team," Brown said.

On Wednesday, Carter-Williams was one rebound and two assists from posting his third triple-double. But his defensive awareness on pick-and-rolls was also impressive.

The Raptors "hard showed on pick-and-rolls," Brown said. "So things became available, and he knew where to go if teams push him and try to send him down the sideline. . . . He can see two or three plays ahead."

That's an area in which he struggled on opening night. He was asked Wednesday to compare himself now to that night.

"Believe it or not, I think I'm a lot better," Carter-Williams said with a smile. "I've grown a lot."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

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