A day after painting a scenario which could see Andrew Wiggins fall to the Sixers at #3 in the draft, Chad Ford hinted at the possibility of the Sixers trading reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams.
The discussion between Ford and fellow ESPN analyst Kevin Pelton started off innocently enough, with Pelton (who has Exum ranked 2nd in the entire draft in projected WARP) and Ford discussing the outlook that both traditional scouts and analytics paint for the young Australian guard (tl;dr: they both like him). Ford then mentioned that the Sixers are fans of Exum, that Exum is in play for the Sixers pick at 3 if Wiggins is off the board, and that they believe that Exum and Michael Carter-Williams can play together.
Then the more controversial tidbit was dropped.
Ford went on to say that trading Michael Carter-Williams was "an idea I'm told they have bounced around".
The Philadelphia 76ers are Exum fans as well, and if Wiggins is off the board, Exum will be in the mix. They think Exum and Carter-Williams could play together in the backcourt, although it would not be a very good shooting tandem. I think the more obvious fit comes if they trade Carter-Williams, an idea I'm told they have bounced around.
-- Chad Ford, ESPN.com
Our own Jake Pavorsky backed up the possibility:
The Sixers considering trading MCW is far from a BS story, but for what Philly wants, I can't imagine it'll happen.— Jake Pavorsky (@JakePavorsky) May 28, 2014
The idea of trading Michael Carter-Williams isn't necessarily a new one. The combination of Sam Hinkie's draft day surprise last year, the perception that he's always open to selling high, as well as the number of good point guard prospects towards the top of the draft have led to some speculation on the chances of it happening, as the question has been posed here, at other Sixers blogs, as well as in the mainstream media.
The topic is a bit polarizing for fans. On the one hand, Michael Carter-Williams is one of the few pieces on the team that can yield a substantial return, and, depending on how you rate various prospects outside of the top 3, could be used to turn a relatively mediocre asset (11th pick in a weak draft) into a potential franchise cornerstone in only 12 short months.
The question isn't so much whether you, or Sam Hinkie, believe that Michael Carter-Williams will continue to grow and get better as a player. He may never score 16.7 points per game again, which is the part of his game that you could legitimately say was greatly impacted by pace and, more importantly, team personnel. But if his shooting improves, if he cuts down on his turnovers, if he gets better at fighting through screens, and he's surrounded by better shooters, his impact certainly has the chance to be far greater than it was this past year.
But that's not really the question. The question is whether he is at the apex of his value. Certainly, basketball front offices have gotten better at gathering more (and more relevant) data to come to conclusions, and are less likely to be swayed by a situationally inflated point per game total. But the question is also whether or not some other team projects Michael Carter-Williams long term development drastically different than Sam Hinkie does. By all accounts Sam Hinkie is a fan of Carter-Williams, but it just takes one team to overvalue either what Michael Carter-Williams is now or what he can become to get Hinkie interested.
2014 NBA Draft
The question may also come down to more than simply whether or not you think MCW will become a better prospect down the line than, say, Dante Exum or Marcus Smart. The idea that nobody is safe, that anyone, whether that be all-star or rookie of the year, is in danger of being moved could create tension in the locker room. Ultimately, players should feel that way anyway. It's a business where even Wilt Chamberlain was traded. Still, there comes a point where it could impact morale, and trading away 2 all-stars, a reigning rookie of the year, and a former #2 pick still on his rookie contract over the last 3 years could be getting close to that point.
It's an interesting question. I myself have been a vocal fan of Dante Exum all year, and if I had to make the judgment call I do think that in 5 years he will be a better player than Michael Carter-Williams. That being said there's an obvious risk, and while I'm confident in Dante Exum's potential, it's not crazy to value the known commodity.
Dante Exum's shooting
The other main note that Ford dropped that I found interesting with regards to Exum was on his shooting. Ford stated that the "general feeling among the scouts who have watched him the most is that his shot isn't broken and there's nothing preventing him from improving as time goes on."
My own evaluation echoes that, to a degree. I think with his feet set, his form is repeatable enough that with repetitions he can at least make himself a threat. My bigger question comes when he's shooting off the dribble, where I've seen his form break down and there be a lot of extra motion in his shot.
I plan on devoting an article to this topic, but I think a lot of that has to do with his footwork, something that's not uncommon for players who are young in their careers and may not be accustomed to shooting pull up jumpers all that much. With the physical advantages Dante Exum has had he's been able to get all the way to the rim with consistency, and he likely hasn't worked on that part of his game as much as he has on other parts of his game. If his footwork and balance improve considerably, I could see his upper body form and follow through make significant strides as a by-product of that.
No mention of Jabari Parker?
For all the Sixers related tidbits that Chad Ford has dropped over the last few days -- from Wiggins not being in the running at the #1 pick, to Wiggins not being in the top 2 on the Bucks board, to Wiggins being the Sixers top target, the Sixers being big fans of Dante Exum, and the Sixers bouncing around the idea of trading Michael Carter-Williams -- the one prospect whom Ford has been mum on with regards to the Sixers has been Jabari Parker.
Part of that could be circumstantial. Perhaps Ford just hasn't gotten around to talking about the Sixers views on Parker. Perhaps Ford believes that Parker and Embiid are very likely to go in the top 2, and so he has focused his Sixers related discussions on Wiggins and Exum. Perhaps neither Wiggins or Exum are the Sixers targets, and the Sixers have leaked their interest in the two prospects to try to get Orlando or somebody else to sell high and move up. Or perhaps there's something there, and the omission of Parker being mentioned as a Sixers target has meaning.
At this time of the year, we're going to speculate about anything. Some of that speculation may be on point, and some of it may be crazy. But the silence has been interesting, at least.