Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams was part of a rather awful draft class but shined in the City of Brotherly Love amid an adverse situation in his first season as a pro. As a result, the Syracuse product has won the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The NBA confirmed Carter-Williams' achievement on Monday morning:
Carter-Williams later spoke about the honor (via Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times):
#Sixers MCW: 'I never blame anyone else but myself ... This award is great, but I'd definitely trade this award to be in the playoffs.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) May 5, 2014
#Sixers MCW: 'The (Philly) crowd showed a lot of love, even when we were at our worst point. We want to build something special.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) May 5, 2014
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com first reported the news on Saturday:
Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer also confirmed the news:
This was an individual achievement MCW had been hoping for following his team's immense struggles.
It also makes Carter-Williams the second player in Sixers franchise history to win the award (via ESPN Stats and Info):
Michael Carter-Williams reportedly to be named Rookie of the Year. Only other 76ers player to win the award was Allen Iverson in 1996-97.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 3, 2014
"I'd love to be Rookie of the Year," said Carter-Williams, per The Intelligencer's Tom Moore. "If I'm not, I'd be a little disappointed. That's just me being competitive."
As the cliche goes, hindsight is 20-20, but in retrospect, it's downright ridiculous that the Syracuse product dropped to No. 11 overall in the 2013 NBA draft.
Carter-Williams was the catalyst for a promising start to the year for Philadelphia, only to see general manager Sam Hinkie gut almost the entire roster of core players. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were shipped away at the trade deadline to thin out an already meager squad, leaving Thaddeus Young and MCW to lead a band of misfits, led by a first-year head coach in Brett Brown.
The low point undoubtedly came when the Sixers hit the skids to historic proportions, going on a record-tying 26-game losing streak before beating the Detroit Pistons, 123-98, on March 29 to save some face.
This race for top rookie hasn't been close from the beginning. It wouldn't have been difficult to blame Carter-Williams for slacking off, falling into the losing culture Philadelphia dangerously promoted in order to get a top draft choice and regressing down the stretch.
Instead, the dynamic 22-year-old showed exceptional leadership and an ability to put forth great effort every night. Even with an underwhelming supporting cast to complement him, Carter-Williams managed averages of 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals per contest.
At one stage toward the end of the regular season, Paul Pabst of The Dan Patrick Show noted how Carter-Williams, despite running the point, had out-rebounded three top-flight 2013 draft picks who play in the frontcourt:
Rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams had more rebounds this season (431) than Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter and Alex Len...combined. (299)— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) April 15, 2014
Keep in mind, other than Young, the Sixers had no legitimate offensive threats for the last half of the season and defenses could focus on Carter-Williams almost exclusively. Even with a jump shot that still has plenty of room for improvement, he managed to put up exceptional statistics. Winning was almost out of the question for what Hinkie did to the roster, so at least Carter-Williams made the best of a badly dealt hand.
Where will Michael Carter-Williams rank among NBA point guards in 2014-15?
Winning Rookie of the Year is no small feat even though Carter-Williams' competition was limited. It's a nice consolation prize if nothing else for the youngster as he looks toward better days in Philadelphia—and that's what the future promises, because the Sixers can't sink much lower than they did in 2013-14.
With a ton of cap space for Hinkie to work with and at least one lottery pick on the way, things should look up for this squad in the immediate and long-term future. The fact that Carter-Williams was able to succeed under such trying circumstances proves he was worth drafting and should help him only continue to progress.
In a league stacked with talent at the point guard position, don't be surprised if Carter-Williams becomes one of the very best sooner rather than later. If Hinkie can add one or two additional star players—along with defensive dynamo Nerlens Noel, who will be making his debut in 2014-15—MCW appears destined for excellence.
Carter-Williams should be able to afford taking more gambles on defense if Noel comes back with a fury, and his extraordinary length at 6'6" will continue to pose matchup problems at both ends of the floor. For now, the Philadelphia floor general can enjoy the spoils of this Rookie of the Year accolade and use it as a launching point to persuade other stalwart free agents to join him and help lead the Sixers back to NBA prominence.