Jul 12 2013

‘Take the shot! Take the bloody shot!’

Michael Carter-Williams is a terrible shooter. He should shoot until that changes.

story6_400_070913Michael Carter-Williams is a player possessed of many useful basketball talents. A jump shot is not one.

To wit: Carter-Williams sunk only 39.3 percent of his attempts his sophomore, and final, season at ‘Cuse–29 percent from 3-points–and according to Draft Express ranked last among all the backcourt prospects they evaluated with 0.746 points per-possession, just 0.683 in the half court.

This isn’t a hole in his game as much a yawning chasm that, unless bridged, will likely prevent him from becoming even a league average point guard. There’s no alternative: It’s the swing skilhe absolutely must improve. 

Which brings me to the most recent of Brett Koremenos’ excellent summer league dispatches for Grantland. In it, Koremenos details Carter-Williams’ “evolution”–if that’s what we can call the thing where a guy plays one way for three games, then a different way in the fourth–wherein the rookie went from agressive bucket-seeker to distributor.

In OSL games 1-3, MCW attempted an Iverson-ian 69 shots for the Sixers’ JV team, only to watch his group lose those games by 42 points. In game 4, the rookie changed tack. Carter-Williams looked to set up his teammates throughout, did work on pick-and-rolls, and attempted just 10 shots of his own. It was a success: the Sixers lost, but by only a point against a Magic team that’s heavy on players who will be on the NBA roster in the fall.

The lesson Koremenos’ drew (or should I say Jrue? No, I guess I shouldn’t) was that MCW should be himself. Focus on what he does best. If you can’t shoot, stop shooting so much.

The most important key for young players finding NBA success is getting comfortable with an identity that allows them to become the best version of themselves. For Michael Carter-Williams that means embracing the idea that he must base his game around the pass and use his size, handle, and vision to create opportunities for teammates first, looking only to score enough that it keeps a defense honest.

As a general proposition, this is unassailable Players who understand who they are, and play within those confines, are generally the players who succeed. Baller, know thyself. In this particular instance though–considering this specific players’ skill-set within the context of this specific team’s 2013-14 objectives–my advice to MCW is a little different: shoot early and often, Michael.

While I agree that the rookie in no way projects as a shoot-first pont guard and, ideally, would find his niche as a big, defensively oriented, fast-breaking, trigger-shy distributor who is “looking only to score enough to keep defenses honest,” MCW needs to improve his shot by light-years to get even a scintilla of credulity-encouraging respect from opposing Ds. And an effective way to do this–to get better at shooting–is to shoot a lot.

The subsequent growing pains wouldn’t come at the teams’ expense either. Quite the contrary. The Sixers are widely understood to be trying to lose games this coming season. MCW taking, and missing, a lot of shots is–even if it doesn’t actually lead to improvement in his J–possibly the single most helpful thing he can do to improve the franchise’s long-range fortunes. It’s easy to wind up at the top of the lottery when one of your starters is taking 16 shots a night and missing 60 percent of them.

So take the shot, MCW. Take the bloody shot.





  • James Roane

    No, don’t take the shot. Like Jason Kidd and Rondo, he can grow into his shot. First and foremost, he must learn how to make others better by getting THEM shots at the right time and the right place of the floor. At this stage of his career he must learn the NBA game, and above all, don’t turn the ball over. He’s got a lot to work on and right now his shot shouldn’t be a priority. With his length and with the right pace (hopefully the 76’ers will be a tempo team) he will get enough opportunities thru fast breaks or attacking the rim. Whatever is wrong with his shot, won’t just get better with repetition. Work smarter, not harder. Figure out what the problem is with his shot, then work on it. Perfect practice makes practice perfect.