Did you see what Michael Carter Williams of Syracuse did Monday? His best Russell Westbrook impersonation, soaring down the lane and dunking with alacrity.
Carter-Williams, a slithery 6-foot-7 point guard with the length and frame of Penny Hardaway, leads the NCAA in assists (9.1 per game) and is 4th in steals (3.1). He’s had seven games with double figures in points and assists. Remember the meteoric rise of Kansas center Jeff Withey last year? That’s what MCW, a sophomore, is doing this year at Syracuse (I’d argue his rise has been more impressive, given that Withey had Thomas Robinson, a lottery pick, as a wingman). Buried behind trigger-happy Scoop Jardine last year, MCW didn’t start a game. He didn’t play a minute in the NCAA tournament.
MCW is not without flaws (on the court – we’re excluding his Lord & Taylor incident … whatever that was.). He’s shooting 37 percent from the field and only 28 percent from three. Here’s what Boeheim said after the Cincinnati win:
Boeheim on MCW: I can’t cook. If I believed in my cooking like he believes in his shooting, I’d win Iron Chef.
— Syracuse Basketball (@PSBasketball) January 21, 2013
Back to the good news: This isn’t a dominant draft class. There is no consensus No. 1 pick. Cody Zeller? Great college player, should make a solid pro, but have we already seen the best of him? The problem with staying in school and not showing massive growth is that your game will be nitpicked to death. Zeller is obviously still a lottery pick, but he doesn’t look a franchise player/max contract player.
Who else is there?
Shabazz Muhammad is teeming with potential, but so far, I’ve only seen a blend between Michael Redd and Rudy Gay. Top 5 pick? Probably. 1st overall? I don’t see it. What’s he at the next level, a SG or SF?
James Michael McAdoo? He’s really struggling without a point guard, and frankly, I’ve been more impressed by UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, who has been beastly so far inside for the Rebels, and is hitting 40 percent of his 3-pointers.
Nerlens Noel of Kentucky? Shot-blocking machine, but not nearly the game-changer Anthony Davis was. Noel doesn’t have an offensive move, either. Davis is averaging 13.1 ppg in the NBA as a rookie. I don’t see Noel doing that for a few years. The only other UK player in the discussion for the Top 10 would be point guard Archie Goodwin.
The strongest contenders with MCW for the No. 1 pick, right now, have to be Maryland’s 7-footer, Alex Len, Duke’s Mason Plumlee (yes, really), dancing Ray Allen clone Ben McLemore of Kansas, and a major sleeper, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, who has been unbelievable for the Cowboys. I have raved about Len for awhile now, and still think he’s only scratching the surface. The Terps have no point guard, run a very shaky offense, and Len is being criminally misused (the offense should go through him, not Dez Wells). Smart is explosive, a combo guard, and occasionally reminds me of James Harden. I’d take Smart over Shabazz if I were an NBA team.
The biggest obstacle to MCW from going first overall? The teams that will be drafting at the top don’t all need a point guard. Let’s briefly look at the worst teams in the NBA:
1. Washington (9-30) – Have John Wall (though it remains to be seen if they love him and will extend him).
2. Cleveland (10-32) – Have Kyrie Irving.
3. Charlotte (10-32) – Have Kemba Walker who is having a terrific sophomore season in the pros … but I think they’d draft MCW.
4. Phoenix (13-28) – Drafted Kendall Marshall in the lottery last year; just signed Goran Dragic to a big deal.
5. Orlando (14-26) – Definitely would draft MCW.
I’d say there are two teams that definitely would not draft MCW: Cleveland and Phoenix. The others? He’d have to be strongly considered for the top spot.