Michael Carter-Williams exploded onto the scene in his first career NBA game against the Miami Heat with 22 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 7 steals, and an upset victory. Many people, including Magic Johnson, crowned him Rookie of the Year that night after his performance. Carter-Williams continued his success through November and earned the Rookie of the Month honor for the Eastern Conference. It seemed as if he was going to easily run away with the Rookie of the Year Award.
Now, with about two months remaining in the season, the race is a lot closer.
Victor Oladipo has turned what was once considered a one man race into a very close two-man sprint as the NBA season heads into its' final stretch. A lot of media outlets, including cbssports.com and nba.com, currently have Oladipo over MCW in the ROY race. Here's a look at what Carter-Williams and Oladipo's numbers look like per game thus far into the season:
Michael Carter Williams: 34.5 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 39.5 FG%, 29.1 3P%, 70.1FT%, 6.4 AST, 5.4 REB, 3.6 TO
Victor Oladipo: 32.0 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 41.4 FG%, 30.1 3P%, 77.5 FT%, 4.0 AST, 4.4 REB, 3.2 TO
Looking at the total stats for this season MCW leads in points, assists, and rebounds but Oladipo shoots more efficiently. Although, there is not much of a disparity in the percentages besides free throws. Even in the points, rebounds, and assists categories, there is not an overwhelming disparity.
For the whole season Oladipo has been playing steady and consistent basketball. All he needed was a stretch where he played really strong ball, while MCW struggled, to gain some serious consideration for ROY. He got just that. Recently, Michael Carter-Williams has hit the "rookie wall" pretty hard, while Victor Oladipo has been playing some really good, efficient basketball. To start off February, Oladipo has used his strong play to make him a serious contender for ROY. Here are both players' stats for the first five games in February thus far:
Michael Carter-Williams: 33.1 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 34.6 FG%, 26.3 3P%, 67.9 FT%, 5.0 AST, 4.4 REB, 5.2 TO
Victor Oladipo: 31.0 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 41.9 FG%, 30.0 3P%, 87.0 FT%, 5.2 AST, 4.2 REB, 2.6 TO
During this 5 game stretch, Oladipo posted a line of 14 points(5-7 FG), 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a win against the Thunder. He followed up that performance with 23 points(8-18 FG), 4 rebounds and 4 assists in a win against the Pacers. During that same stretch MCW has been a turnover machine and had a game of 14 points(5-18 FG) along with 8 turnovers in a blowout loss to the Clippers.
Although, if the season ended today I would still give the award to Michael Carter-Williams for a few reasons. The first being that MCW not only leads Oladipo, but the whole rookie class in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Secondly, he has the most double doubles among all rookies with 10 (Oladipo has 4). Lastly, the 76ers are 1-11 without Michael Carter-Williams in the lineup. Yes I know their record of 14-27 with him is not impressive, but it shows how much of an impact he has had as a rookie.
The good news for Oladipo is that the season does not end today and there are still enough games for him to make up ground on MCW if he can continue his strong play. Even better news for Oladipo is that the Sixers are actively shopping Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, who are two of their better players. If they are traded, more pressure is going to be put on MCW at the offensive end which could hurt his field goal percentage, assists, and turnovers.
With that being said, if you were going to make one excuse for MCW it would be that he does not have the supporting cast that Oladipo has in Orlando. I am aware that the Magic are only one win better than the Sixers but the Magic, unlike the Sixers, actually have an inside game with Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic. The Magic also have one of the top perimeter scorers in the league in Arron Afflalo, while the Sixers do not have an above-average perimeter scorer. So Oladipo does not have as much pressure on him offensively that MCW does. Looking at the Sixers roster makes Michael Carter-Williams 6.4 assists per game even more impressive.
I think that the voting for the ROY at the conclusion of the season will be really close. But ultimately, I think Michael Carter-Williams will come out on top and win the Rookie of the Year Award. I think the All-Star break will be a nice and much needed rest. I know he is participating down in New Orleans but the Rising Stars Challenge and Skills Competition will not take a lot out of him. So hopefully the All-Star break is what MCW needs to break out of his "rookie wall" funk that he is currently in. His numbers will most likely take a hit if the Sixers make some trades, but I do not think it will be enough to cost him the award. Also the Sixers record without him in the lineup impressively shows the value that Carter-Williams has when he is playing. I still believe that he will finish the year leading all rookies in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and double-doubles, which will make it really hard to not give him the award.