Well, that was surprising.
In an unexpected draft day trade, Jrue Holiday was shipped from the Philadelphia 76ers to the New Orleans Pelicans for projected No. 1 overall pick Nerlens Noel. Sure Noel slid to No. 6, but the talent is there. One might question trading an All-Star point guard for a guy coming off serious knee surgery that five other teams refused to touch, but hey, the 76ers knew they’d be able to nab Michael Carter-Williams with the No. 11 pick.
With Noel out for the season, the 76ers figure to again be in the lottery, with even bigger prizes awaiting them in 2014. The team went 34-48 with an All-Star point guard and an injured big man in Andrew Bynum last season. So essentially, pending any more unexpected moves, all the Sixers have done for the upcoming season is replace an All-Star with a rookie. Clearly the future, not the present, is the priority for new 76ers GM Sam Hinkie.
So how does MCW fit into that future? As things stand today, it’s going to be quite the learning experience for the former Syracuse star. On one hand, he’s going to have an opportunity to start right away for a team that currently has only two other point guards on its roster, neither with MCW’s pedigree or potential. Chances are he’ll get plenty of minutes, probably in a starter’s role as the season progresses, and will have plenty of time to hone his game and improve.
On the other hand, this is not going to be pretty. After all, we are talking about a team that went 34-48 with Holiday leading them. MCW is not going to walk-in and be an All-Star. He needs time to develop. The good news is that with the ultimate goal being a No. 1 pick in next year’s loaded lottery, the Sixers are going to give him that time.
While he will need to learn how to cope with losses piling up on a nightly basis –a drastic change from the winning culture of the Orange- MCW will hopefully realize the long-term benefits of his situation. He has a chance to play in the NBA against the best of the best without any real immediate expectations, other than to continually improve. That’s a luxury many lottery picks don’t receive.
Alongside Evan Turner and Nick Young in the backcourt, MCW can focus on being a distributor. He’ll obviously need to improve his jump shot, but I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to do so then being on a team with low expectations and plenty of patience.
When Noel returns, and the Sixers get two first round picks from next year’s talented draft class (they also get the Pelicans’ Top 5 protected first round pick as a part of the trade), the Sixers will have a capable young core with unlimited potential.
2014 is when the expectations will start creeping in. By then, MCW will have a year of leading an NBA team under his belt. He’ll also have tremendously thick skin and a chip on his shoulder from all the losses. That is, of course, assuming he performs well enough to keep his job.
The Sixers are going to be patient with him, but MCW needs to show the team brass that he can lead them through the trials and tribulations of a lottery-bound season. If he can do that, and show improvements in the areas of his game that obviously need it, there is no reason to think that MCW can’t be the leader of a playoff team in a couple of years.
Being drafted by Philadelphia at No. 11 has put Michael Carter-Williams in an enviable position. He gets to play immediately on a team that is looking towards the future. It’s the perfect situation for a young player who needs to improve, but has the undeniable potential to be star.