Michael Carter-Williams had himself a very eventful All-Star Weekend, especially for a rookie who was selected 11th overall. MCW's weekend started off Friday night in the Rising Stars Challenge. He started at point guard for Team Webber and posted a line of 17 points, 9 assists, and six rebounds. Although it was basically played how the All-Star game is played, which is with no defense at all, Carter-Williams made some really nice drives to the bucket and dished some pretty assists.
On Saturday night MCW teamed up with fellow rookie, Victor Oladipo, in the Skills Challenge. The rookie tandem made it to the final round, but lost by .1 seconds to the team of Damian Lillard andTrey Burke. Then on Sunday, Carter-Williams started off the day by coaching the Special Olympics Unified Game, which involved special olympic athletes, former NBA players, and WNBA players. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, Michael Carter-Williams made a short speech at the NBA Legends Brunch and presented the Legends Community Service Award to Karl Malone.
All in all, it was a great experience at All-Star weekend for Carter-Williams. Though, the ultimate goal for a player is to be playing Sunday night, on the same court as the best players in the league, in the All-Star Game.
So the question that arises is what will it take for Michael Carter-Williams to raise his game to an All-Star level?
MCW exploded onto the scene early in the season and his very strong all-around play lasted for about a month before teams started to key on him defensively, which exposed his weaknesses. There are three weaknesses that Michael Carter-Williams needs to work on if he wants to take his game to the next level.
The first weakness, which is the most obvious, is his jump shot. During the skills challenge after MCW air-balled his first long range jump shot, Kevin Harlan noted that Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring with 17 points per game. To which Reggie Miller replied, "They must all be lay-ups". Harsh, but that is how bad MCW has shot the ball this season. Now his form is not terrible and his shot is not "broken", which is what people called Evan Turner's shot coming out of college. Although Turner improved slightly, his form went from very awkward to awkward. Carter-Williams form is not bad, he just is not a good shooter right now. I do not have the exact numbers or shot charts on Carter-Williams, but from watching all of the games, he is not a high volume shooter from 15 feet to beyond the three point line. His jump shot off the dribble is also not good either. But that does not mean he can not improve. He is currently shooting 39.5% from the field, 28.7% from three, and 70.2% from the line. Improvement in all three of those areas would be vital in the progression of MCW's game.
The next thing Carter-Williams needs to work on is his efficiency and his shot selection. Way too many times this season, MCW has come down court, dribbled around a screen, and chucked up a long two pointer(which I'm sure Doug Collins does not find anything wrong with it). This is a shot Jrue Holiday fell in love with way too many times last season. It is a very inefficient shot and Carter-Williams is not a strong shooter to begin with.
While this season, MCW has had a lot of pressure on him to score and be the focal point of the offense, next year will hopefully be a lot different. A lot of mock-drafts currently have the Sixers taking Wiggins/Parker with their first pick and Gary Harris/Rodney Hood with the Pelicans pick that they own. Either combination, along with Nerlens Noel returning from injury, will take some pressure off of Carter-Williams offensively. So with help on the way, teams will not be able to only key in on Carter-Williams defensively if he has other legitimate offensive weapons around him. Other offensive weapons around him that will take some of the load off of him should help his efficiency as well.
Carter-Williams currently averages 17.1 points per game but he takes 15.5 shots per game to get to that. He has to improve on being more effective in this category, and he showed a flash of being able to do that in Tuesday night's game against the Cavs. Carter-Williams finished the first quarter with eight points on 4-5 shooting, probably his best start to a game in a while. But it was not just the stat line that was impressive, it was how he scored that quarter. His four makes were all fifteen feet and in. The four buckets consisted of a floater in the lane, a driving layup, and two jumpers from fourteen feet and in. It was only a flash of effectiveness because Carter-Williams finished the rest of the game shooting 1-9. But a better shot selection and not trying to force something that is not there will help MCW improve his scoring efficiency.
We have also seen MCW go to a floater a few times this season. Sometimes Carter-Williams over-penetrates on his drives to the basket, which ends up in him getting blocked or putting up a very tough and contested shot. Given his height and ability to rise up over any point guard in the league, if MCW can add a floater to his game then he would not have to drive all the way to the basket every time he penetrates. Instead, if he sees help defense on its way, he can come to a stop and put up a floater from five to eight feet out. Going to this shot more instead of taking long jumpers would definitely improve Carter-Williams efficiency on the offensive end.
The final thing Michael Carter-Williams needs to work on is his strength and physical build. Carter-Williams has a very frail body, which causes him to get pushed away from the rim on a lot of his drives to the basket. It is also seen when he takes it to the rim and just does not have enough strength to finish through contact. On the defensive end, teams have attacked Carter-Williams on the pick-and-roll this season because he has trouble fighting through screens. This is also a result of his small frame. He is only 22 years old so there is potentially some room to add on muscle. He also has to get stronger to be able to last an entire season, after he has already missed 12 games this season. If he can indeed put on some muscle, it would open Carter-Williams' game up to being able to finish better at the rim and possibly even be able to develop a post-up game( since he looks down to every point guard in the league besides Shaun Livingston).
The potential, athletically and skill-wise, is certainly there for Carter-Williams. He also has all the intangibles: he wants to win, he wants to be great, he is a good teammate, he always works hard, and he has a really good character. It is all there for MCW, he just has to continue to work on his game and get stronger.
As for when MCW will make his first all-star game appearance, we have seen past rookie of the year/standout rookie point guards(Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Damian Lillard) make it to the All-Star game in their second, third, or fourth year. It is not crazy to think Carter-Williams could be there in that same amount of time frame. The more improvements he makes on his game, the faster Michael Carter-Williams will be playing under the big lights Sunday night on All-Star Weekend.