Philadelphia 76ers: What went wrong with Michael Carter-Williams?

Once upon a time, Michael Carter-Williams was the certified man for the Philadelphia 76ers.

I mean, he dropped a 22-12-7 double-double in his first game as a pro, beating LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the process, and went on to average 16.7 points and 1.9 steals on his way to a Rookie of the Year win.

Carter-Williams was so good, in fact, that Sam Hinkie decided to trade him midway through his sophomore season in a bizarre race to the bottom and allow the best young point guard the Sixers had since Jrue Holiday continue on with his NBA career elsewhere; fittingly enough, just like they did with Jrue Holiday two years prior.

Now granted, were the Sixers paid handsomely for their star player? Yes. Hinkie landed an unprotected 2018 first-round pick from the then-bad Phoenix Suns – a pick that was eventually used to draft Mikal Bridges only to then trade him back to the Suns – and was able to keep picking up draft picks as the GM of a very bad team.

And as for the player affectionately known as MCW? Well, his career sort of capped off during his 111 game tenure in South Philly and has been all downhill ever since.

Michael Carter-Williams has never been the same since he left the Philadelphia 76ers.

When the Milwaukee Bucks traded Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to the Phoenix Suns to secure the services of Michael Carter-Williams, it was to be the team’s point guard of the future.

They’d just drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous year – four picks after MCW, if you can believe it – and saw an opportunity to secure the service of a win-now point guard with an even higher upside than Knight to pair with them moving forward.

The only problem? MCW and Antetokounmpo just didn’t fit well together, like at all.

As Philadelphia 76ers fans can surely attest, when you have a 6-foot-10 non-shooter on the court, you really can’t afford to pair him up with another non-shooter in the backcourt. It limits the offense’s spacing, shrinks the usable space in the paint, and ultimately puts a ceiling on even the best team’s potential.

While MCW got off to a good enough start in his new home, averaging 14.1 points in 30.3 minutes of action a night in 2015, he was eventually relegated to the bench in place of future Sixer Jerryd Bayless and was eventually traded to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell.

From there, Carter-Williams’ career kept plotting along, but because of his inability to translate his game to the modern 3-happy NBA, each new stop just never seemed to be the right fit. He spent time in the G-League, was waived by the Bulls after not too much success during his second tenure with the team, and he was eventually forced to sign a pair of 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic to keep his NBA dream alive.

Though MCW appears to have found a home in Orlando, his 2021-22 season is already in question, as he just had surgery to remove bone fragments from his knee and will miss the start of the forthcoming season. Factor in the addition of Jalen Suggs, the return of Markelle Fultz, and the emergence of Cole Anthony as a legit offensive weapon, and MCW may soon find himself on the street yet again looking for his seventh NBA home.

… unless he somehow makes his way back to the Philadelphia 76ers, which would be just as bad a fit as it was in Milwaukee if Ben Simmons is somehow still on the roster.

Ultimately, Sam Hinkie looks like a genius for selling high on Michael Carter-Williams six months removed from his Rookie of the Year win. He knew MCW’s game wasn’t made for the modern-day NBA and was able to secure a draft pick that could have been incredibly valuable had interim GM Brett Brown not messed it up. While he could still stick around for a few more seasons, it’s clear the pride of Syracuse will never again reach the heights of his rookie season, if said heights weren’t just a mirage brought on by a #Process perfect storm of extensive minutes and no real desire to win.