Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Earlier this week, the oddsmakers in Vegas made a statement. That statement was that the Philadelphia 76ers aren't going to be very good this season.
So how bad are we talking? Well, the oddsmakers set the over/under at 16 1/2 wins.
Right now, they're on pace to go 82-0.
Vegas may still get it right in the end. But for one glorious night, the 76ers were better than the defending champion Miami Heat.
Who knew LeBron James' kryptonite would be a lanky 22-year-old whose last name barely fits on the back of his uniform?
Michael Carter-Williams was sensational Wednesday in his Sixers debut. The 6- foot-6 point guard buried the Heat with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Four of his buckets came from downtown, including three in the first half.
On the night Allen Iverson announced his retirement from the NBA, Carter- Williams looked every bit like the next great Philadelphia point guard. His nine steals were the most ever for a player making his NBA debut. The only player on the floor with more assists than Carter-Williams' was James.
Speaking of James, the four-time MVP had nothing but praise for the youngster after the game.
"I couldn't think of a better way to start your career," James commented after the Heat's 114-110 loss Wednesday night in Philadelphia. You could argue that Carter-Williams looked even better than LeBron did in his debut 10 years earlier (25 points, six rebounds, nine assists in a 106-92 loss to Sacramento).
James probably didn't sleep too well last night after Carter-Williams picked his pocket to give the Sixers the ball back with 55 seconds left in regulation. Later, the rookie drilled two free throws to seal Philly's first win over Miami in four years.
Wednesday was great television. No one could argue that. But was Carter- Williams' eye-popping performance something we should come to expect from him, or was it just another one-night explosion we'll forget about in a few days?
Assuming this is the same Carter-Williams I watched play at Syracuse for the last two seasons, it's hard to believe that we'll see another game like this in the near future. Carter-Williams only had one 20-point game in college and his career scoring average at Syracuse didn't even reach double-digits (7.2 ppg). In 66 games for the Orange, MCW was a 39.8 percent shooter with a 30.4 percent success rate from beyond the arc. His free throw shooting was just as poor (67.9 percent).
Even during the preseason, Carter-Williams was having trouble knocking down shots. In six exhibition games, he shot a dismal 32.7 percent while averaging just 8.0 ppg. His free throw and three-point percentages were 57.1 and 27.3, respectively. Which begs the question, why in the world would the Sixers waste a first-round pick on a guy who can't shoot?
Because basketball is about much more than shooting. Carter-Williams may not be a polished offensive player yet, but he's already an elite defender. Williams' unique combination of size and instincts led him to average 2.8 steals per game last season, sixth-best in Division I.
At 6-foot-6, Carter-Williams towers over other players at his position. The height advantage allows him to see the floor better than most point guards and was certainly a contributing factor in the 7.7 assists per game he generated last season at Syracuse (third-best in college hoops).
And just because Carter-Williams isn't a consistent shooter doesn't mean he can't score. Few players in college basketball were as dominant as MCW on the fast break last season. That's why it was fitting that Carter-Williams' first points in the NBA came on a dunk in transition in the game's opening minute.
While most rookies toil away on the bench, Carter-Williams doesn't have that problem in Philadelphia. On a rebuilding Sixers squad, he will be relied on as heavily as any rookie in the league this season. Only Evan Turner played more minutes than Carter-Williams (36) in the opener. That kind of heavy workload should propel Carter-Williams to double-digit points on a near-nightly basis.
Carter-Williams is being given an opportunity and for rookies, that's half the battle. Time will tell if he can develop a more consistent jumper, but with plenty of other skills to work with, it looks like Carter-Williams is going to be a pretty good fantasy player.