When news trickled out this weekend that the Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams would be imminently named the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year, most responded by saying, of course. But some immediately clamored that Victor Oladipo was just as good, if not better.
Grantland's Zach Lowe made this argument back on April 15 in his NBA Awards column, stating context as the main reason to give the nod to Oladipo over MCW:
"Carter-Williams has better counting stats than Oladipo, but the gap is small, and mostly due to Carter-Williams logging a few more minutes and Philly piling up six more possessions per game than Orlando. One of them plays for a team so terrible, I'm not really sure any statistic in either direction matters... Playing with at least a few quality veterans boosts that efficiency, but plop [Oladipo] on a roster as bad as Philly's, and his counting numbers would likely be at least as good as MCW's - with better defense. Oladipo has also played in 10 more games, which counts on the margins."
While Lowe is rightfully one of the most respected NBA writers today, concluding an argument in favor of Oladipo by saying, "plop him on a roster as bad as Philly's and his counting numbers would likely be at least as good as MCW's," is making a foolish statement that can't possibly be quantified even after Lowe made a convincing case in favor of the Orlando guard. So let's look at this completely objectively: after all, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year isn't awarded to who would be the best first-year NBA player regardless of what team he played on, it acknowledges which rookie simply had the best inaugural season.
There's no denying MCW's counting stats are superior to Oladipo's: Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals. Those stats can't just be discarded though, as MCW is one of only three rookies in NBA history to average at least 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game. The others? Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
But still, let's look deeper.
Player A: Team ORTG On: 99.1 Team ORTG Off: 93.1 Team DRTG On: 108.1 Team DRTG Off: 106.5
Player B Team ORTG On: 97.8 Team ORTG Off: 102.1 Team DRTG On: 102.7 Team DRTG Off: 108.5
Offensively, both players were not very efficient this season. Neither of their teams were, as the Magic and Sixers ranked 29 and 30 in the league in offensive efficiency, respectively. In this exercise, Player A is clearly the more valuable offensive player; his team scores 1.3 more points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor than Player B's team does when he is on the floor and Player A's team's production dips six points when he's on the bench as opposed to Player B's team's production jumping by 4.3 points when he's on the pine.
Defensively it's the exact opposite. Player B's team is far more efficient defensively when he's on the floor than Player A's team is when he's on the court. Player A's team even gets better by almost two points per 100 possessions when he's off the floor, while Player B's team suffers a significant drop off by almost six points when he's observing rather than playing.
Player A is MCW. Player B is Oladipo. Clearly, MCW is the superior offensive player and Oladipo was the more valuable defensive player. Maybe that's because MCW has been playing point guard all his life and Oladipo is just converting to the position. But, it's obvious Oladipo helps his team more on D than MCW does, despite Carter-Williams leading all rooks in steals.
But even on offense, Carter-Williams had a historically poor shooting season. As Lowe noted in his column, he was "just a couple of misses from becoming the seventh player ever to attempt at least 100 3s while shooting worse than 25 percent from deep and 40 percent overall."
So besides having more opportunities to produce and being a more natural point guard, what made Carter-Williams better than Oladipo?
Oladipo was a more efficient scorer, but his true-shooting percentage was only 3.4 percent higher than that of MCW. That small discrepancy is likely due to the fact that while Oladipo was by far better than MCW from three-point range, the Orlando guard only bested MCW by .8 percent on 2-point jumpers. Outside of shooting efficiency, MCW was far better on offense, besting Oladipo in free throw rate, rebound percentage, assist percentage, all per basketball-reference.com.
So when you clear through everything, in a vacuum, Oladipo was only far superior to MCW in three categories: three-point percentage, free throw percentage, and his defensive impact on his team. Individually, Oladipo's defensive rating was just 108 to Carter-Williams' 106.
And if that's a little too complicated, it's all summed up nicely by this: MCW's 15.5 PER to Oladipo's 13.6.
Going back to context, sure, Carter-Williams was put in the position to have superior counting stats to Oladipo. But in that same setting, MCW dealt with far greater pressure with his untalented teammates surrounding him. MCW topped Oladipo by 114 assists in 10 less games passing to Thaddeus Young, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims rather than Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic and Jameer Nelson.
Both players have very bright futures and are apart of promising rebuilds, but MCW clearly had the better overall rookie season.