On Wednesday, Michael Carter-Williams managed a tidy seven points and eight assists in only 17 minutes in his debut with the Milwaukee Bucks. The reigning Rookie of the Year started in his first game with his new team, which co-incidentally was pitched against the franchise that dealt him at the trade deadline – the perpetually rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers.
There is precedent for Rookies of the Year to be dealt in their second seasons, as recently as 2002 Mike Miller was sent to Memphis after taking in the trophy just nine months before, but the 76ers’ version of this rare type of move befuddled many. Miller was dealt for what appeared to be a sturdy big forward with promise in Drew Gooden and a starting-level shooting guard replacement in Gordan Giricek.
MCW? He was essentially dealt for a first-round pick that the Sixers probably won’t be able to use until 2016. And that prospect may not pay immediate dividends, as Carter-Williams did in his first award-winning season with Philadelphia. This is why Sixers coach Brett Brown probably wasn’t a huge fan of the deal, in the interim at least.
And this is why Carter-Williams thinks that the 76ers coach wouldn’t have dealt him if it were up to the man who has to work the sidelines 82 nights a year. Via Pro Basketball Talk, and from Dei Lynam and CSN Philly:
"The ultimate thing it comes down to: Coach Brown coaches and Sam [Hinkie, Philadelphia general manager] does the moves," Carter-Williams said after the Bucks' shootaround. "That is what it comes down to, that is the agreement, and that is all I know. I think if it came down to Coach Brown, I don't think I would have been moved, to be honest."
Was that a correct assumption from Carter-Williams?
"I say that Sam Hinkie has to do his job," Brown said when presented with MCW's thoughts on the trade. "I came to the Philadelphia 76ers in large part because of Sam. I had a gut feel that his study is meticulous and so only time will tell with all this. I will say I had a personal attachment and fondness for [Carter-Williams] and the excitement I will have watching him grow in this league, and he will grow."
Carter-Williams made a point to mention that the Sixers were stringing a few wins together before the All-Star break and trade deadline; Philadelphia split its last eight games heading into the break – a sharp uptick from the 8-37 turn that preceded that run. He went on to remind that he “went out there and gave it [his] all,” which is correct, and reminded us that all point guards – even Rookie of the Year point guards – need time to grow. These are sensible and accurate statements.
Michael Carter-Williams is also just shooting 38 percent this season, and he’s hit just over a quarter of his three-pointers. He remains a dogged defender with the potential to be a fantastic lengthy all-around guard, and this is why the Milwaukee Bucks (in the middle of a run to the postseason) traded their best offensive performer in Brandon Knight for a young point guard who would be coming in without the benefit of a training camp. Even with Knight’s impending restricted free agency working as a concern, the Bucks were clearly thinking long-term with their new point man.
Philadelphia? They’re always thinking long-term.
As it was with Mike Miller in 2000-01, Michael Carter-Williams was the best rookie in one of the worst draft classes of the modern era. The pick the Sixers received in exchange for MCW belongs to the Lakers, via the Phoenix Suns, and it is protected for the top five this year, the top three in 2016 and 2017, and it becomes unprotected in 2018. The Lakers currently own the fourth-worst record in the West, and the team figures to be just as lousy next season. Odds would seem to indicate that the 76ers will probably earn a top five pick in 2016, as the Lakers are too bad this season and will possibly be too good in 2017 and beyond.
Dealing Carter-Williams, the 11th pick in the very poor 2013 NBA draft for a fourth overall selection in the 2016 draft is a win in a vacuum. Even a move up to sixth in this year’s draft, should the Lakers’ lottery luck run out, could possibly work as a win. Both NBAdraft.net and DraftExpress have Croatian scorer Mario Hezonja listed at No. 6 in their mock drafts, a tidy fit for Philadelphia considering he’s played extensive ball with another 76ers stashed prospect: Dario Saric.
Of course, Hezonja just turned 20 on Wednesday. Seemingly each of the 76ers’ prospects are still trimming baby fat away, and coach Brett Brown’s patience can only stand so much. After all, this is the guy who is only a few months removed from lamenting the loss of Brandon Davies, who has made exactly one-third of his shots since being sent from Philly to the Nets. Davies was traded for Andrei Kirilenko, whom the Sixers had hoped to flip to a desperate team at the deadline for yet another second-round pick, along with a second-round pick in 2020 and the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2018. That AK move did not materialize, and he was waived after the trade deadline.
This is just how the Sixers do things. Taking calculated chances, falling back on that second-round pick in 2020.
Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie could be driving Brown batty, and there is no guarantee that Hinkie won’t use his coach as a tradeable asset of sorts in dumping him just as his lottery picks start to roll in and the 76ers turn a corner. Nothing in Hinkie’s public statements would seem to indicate that such a move like that would take place, but nothing is certain in this realm. The NBA is notorious for giving well-traveled guys like Brett Brown second head coaching chances, but he’s also working with that .223 career winning percentage thus far. That tends to stick out to team owners far more than his work in creating Philadelphia’s impressive 13th overall defensive ranking.
Brown has been a fantastic soldier thus far, and there is nothing in the works that would suggest that Hinkie wouldn’t be in favor of letting Brett Brown coach a Sixers team that actually has potential.
That doesn’t mean that the plan feels just as vague as it did in 2013:
The 76ers’ approach is surprising in its audacity, but it’s hardly astonishing and it’s not hard to understand. Michael Carter-Williams is a nice player, but the Sixers think they have a better chance at securing a better player with a future first-round pick, even if it takes them another 16 months (or longer! Way longer!) to do so. Teams do this all the time.
No team in NBA history has done this as much, in less than three calendar years, as these Philadelphia 76ers. Keep Brett Brown in your thoughts.
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