Michael Carter-Williams is proving to be an enigmatic player for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks traded Brandon Knight to the Phoenix Suns and received Carter-Williams from the 76ers to cut costs (Brandon Knight signed a five-year $70 million deal with the Suns this summer) and to further Kidd’s vision of building a young, lengthy team that thrives on defense.
So far, Carter-Williams has brought length, but not much else. His jump shot woes have continued, he has trouble guarding man-to-man beyond the arc--especially getting under screens--and he can’t seem to find ways to score efficiently while getting his teammates involved.
The lineup change resulted in better defensive efforts against Denver, Charlotte, New York, and Portland the past two weeks. The change has also seen Carter-Williams put in a few of his best performances on the season.
Simply looking at the stats, from an admittedly small sample size (nine games), Carter-Williams has been more effective as the Bucks’ sixth man. He’s averaging 6.0 assists per game compared to 4.2 as a starter. He’s also protecting the ball better from the bench while averaging 2.4 turnovers per game compared to 3.4 turnovers per game as a starter.
MCW’s scoring is still as inconsistent as it was when he started, but he posted his only 20 point games this season when he came off the bench against the LA Clippers and the Knicks.
Carter-Williams is doing all of this while averaging 27.9 MPG as a sub. This is a slight difference to the minutes he saw as a starter when he averaged 27.6 MPG. All in all, MCW is playing at a slightly more efficient level from the bench, while still playing the same amount of time as a starter.
In terms of how it is effecting the team, it is allowing Kidd to mix his lineups with youth and experience. Last season the Bucks thrived with lineups that included Zaza Pachulia or Jared Dudley because both guys provided veteran leadership to young guys like Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo who were playing a lot of minutes.
By taking Carter-Williams out of the starting lineup and inserting Mayo or Bayless--or even Greivis Vazquez when he returns from his ankle injury--Kidd can play lineups that once again mix youth with experience. Those guys may not scream veteran leadership, but all three understand what Kidd wants to do defensively, which is the only way this Bucks team is going to turn their season around.
The Bucks did not bring in Carter-Williams as a bench player. But if he is able to continue improving and contributing consistently, he could turn into a better Shaun Livingston, whose career was ironically revived as the Brooklyn Nets' sixth man under Jason Kidd.
With such a small sample size, it’s difficult to tell if Carter-Williams is a player whose long-term future sees him coming off the bench as an effective sixth man. What’s important for the Bucks, and Carter-Williams, is that they continue to develop their young guys, allowing them to figure out what role suits them best.
If Carter-Williams’ role is from the bench, then so be it.