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Sixers at Suns Preview: Reassessing the Michael Carter-Williams trade

The Sixers visit the Phoenix Suns for the first time following the surprising, last-minute, three-team point guard swap at the trade deadline. Let's take a moment to reflect on perhaps Sam Hinkie's biggest splash.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news at 3:08 p.m. EST on February 19: As part of a the Brandon Knight-to-Phoenix trade, the Milwaukee Bucks were in turn acquiring Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee.

Once the dust settled the trade broke down rather simply.

Phoenix received Knight. Milwaukee received those aforementioned three players. And the Sixers came away with the Los Angeles Lakers' 2014 top-five protected first round pick. The Suns also reacquired Liberty Ballers-favorite Kendall Marshall before waiving him.

Knight has flourished in the desert. Only 11 players in the league are currently averaging at least 19 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game while shooting over 35 percent from three. Both the Suns' point guards, Knight and Eric Bledsoe, rank amongst that select few. Knight was an arguable All-Star in Milwaukee a year ago. Amongst a loaded Western Conference crop of lead ball-handlers, he likely won't get the nod again this February. But he's proved to be every penny worth of the five-year, $70 million contract he signed this July, especially in the context of the league's crescendoing salary cap.

The Suns are struggling, though. At 12-19, Phoenix is off to it's worst start in the Jeff Hornacek's three-year stint as head coach. They're offensive and defensive efficiency are both hovering around 20. I would argue that's resulting more from Tyson Chandler's decline and Phoenix having ravaged its depth with two trades — First Goran Dragic and then Marcus Morris.

Milwaukee hasn't fared much better. After cutting ties with their starting point guard, the Bucks closed last season 11-18 and have since opened this 2015-16 campaign 12-18. Carter-Williams has improved this season, however. He's currently shooting a career-high from the field (46.1 percent, above league average!) and foul line (71.0 percent). MCW still can't buy a bucket from outside 10 feet, however. With injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Ennis has performed admirably in spot minutes.

The Sixers are of course 1-30, the worst start in NBA history, and just surrendered two second-round picks to reacquire Ish Smith after the team failed to fill its gaping hole at point guard. With the Lakers currently owning the second-worst record in the league, the Sixers would have a 44.2 percent chance at Los Angeles falling to No. 4 in the Draft Lottery and acquiring that valuable selection.

Where all three teams stand, I think Phoenix has currently won that three-team trade. Carter-Williams has perfectly fit Milwaukee's defensive scheme, but his ultimate ceiling is still tremendously hindered if he never figures out how to shoot from outside the paint. Unless the Lakers rattle off a momentous win streak, the Pelicans quit on the season and begin a fire sale and the ping pong balls bounce favorably, it's more likely than not the Sixers will have to wait until 2017 to acquire the Lakers' first round pick.

Meanwhile, trading that first round pick, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee for a 24-year-old, All-Star caliber combo guard is fantastic value in this current trade market. Knight is the real deal, folks.

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