Normally, when I make a recommendation in this column, it’s accompanied by a reasonably hearty level of excitement about the player in question. On a 10-point scale, I’d say most weeks I’m at least at an 8, if not an 8.5.
This week, I must confess that we are swimming far closer to the lukewarm waters of 6-6.5, but I do feel like the player in question is well worth discussing, so I will do that… now.
Michael Carter-Williams has only been in the NBA for three-plus years, but he’s already managed to log a somewhat odd career. He came into the league as a dynamo of sorts, albeit one on a horrendous team — and with rotten percentages. His first year and a half with Philly, he posted 16.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.5 bpg and 0.8 3s, shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 68.3 from the line.
From there, he fell into what seemed like a dream scenario: a trade to Milwaukee, where he could learn from longtime stat machine Jason Kidd — a coach who could in theory mold MCW into a more thrilling version of his Philly self.
But that never materialized. In fact, under Kidd’s watch, MCW’s game became, if anything, a bit more bland. In 79 games with the Bucks over parts of two seasons, Carter-Williams averaged 12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 0.2 3s, notably shooting 44.4 percent from the field during his Milwaukee tenure. At the time, I certainly expected something more exciting, but the reality is, when healthy, Carter-Williams actually showed a little bit of progress in Milwaukee.
However, after a preseason trade to Chicago which made him the backup to Rajon Rondo, followed by early-season knee and wrist injuries that sidelined him for most of November and December, he was essentially an afterthought. That is, until Rondo added the DNP-CD to his repertoire, allowing MCW to suddenly surface as the starter in Chicago. And over his last four games (three of them starts, two of them Bulls wins), he has posted 9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg and 0.5 3s in an average of 28 minutes, shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 77.8 from the line.
To clarify, which may not be necessary: He’s not likely to return to his Philly numbers any time soon. The Chicago offense is first and foremost Jimmy Butler’s show, and it’s Dwyane Wade’s directly after that. Carter-Williams will likely be playing off the ball quite a bit, so we can’t expect big assist totals. What we can expect, though, is a little bit of everything — most notably, pretty good rebounds, steals and blocks for a point guard.
To reiterate, my expectations are at best moderate here, and I don’t think there’s a ton of fantasy potential. But there is still a bit of room to improve on his recent numbers considering that he has only played nine games all season. So if you have an open roster spot, there’s very little to lose and at least a little bit to gain by giving Carter-Williams another chance. And if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right now — Chicago has five games on the schedule next week.
Also on my mind at the moment…
We are in the midst of a possibly brief, but notable, Joakim Noah renaissance. There are a few different ways to look at this whole thing. One is that in the three games that Kristaps Porzingis missed, Noah went off: 10.3 ppg, 14.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.3 bpg. That’s certainly true, but the Porzingis explanation also assumes that Noah will lose most of his production immediately upon Kristaps’ return. And I’m not so sure that’s the case. Noah actually started to play well before Porzingis was sidelined, and over his last eight games, he’s at 8.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.9 spg and 1.1 bpg. Furthermore, from all the recent Knicks games I’ve seen, it’s not like Noah is getting a bunch of plays dialed up for him sans Porzingis, and a number of his buckets have come on tip-ins where he’s cleaning up someone else’s mess. That’s still going to be there even when Porzingis returns, and why am I talking about Noah’s points so much anyways? You’re playing him right now for A) high-volume boards along with some assists, steals and blocks, and B) because the current schedule is quite favorable (the Knicks games played, the next five weeks: 4-4-4-3-4). Noah certainly could fall apart at some point, but after a bland start to his tenure with New York (first 23 games: 4.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg in 21 minutes per game), the guy with the annoyingly relentless motor appears to have once again found his extra gear.
Other Random Thoughts: We understandably spend a lot of our Philly-related energy discussing Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, but I think we should take a moment to not neglect the usefulness of Ersan Ilyasova. Since the trade to Philadelphia in early November, he has hit double-digit points in 27 of 30 games. And since his last single-digit game just over a month ago, he has posted 17.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 2.6 3s in 14 games. … The aforementioned Jimmy Butler’s last five games: 32.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.4 spg and 1.4 3s. … I shared my thoughts on Dwight Howard’s improved free throw shooting and rosy rest-of-season outlook at the Rotoworld Roundtable this week. I also conveniently found an excuse to talk about how awesome David Robinson’s fantasy stats were back in the day. … I sat down to discuss Michael Carter-Williams, Wayne Ellington and Tim Hardaway Jr. in front of a camera a couple days ago. As always, you can check that out by mashing the play button just below these words.