Anyone that has seen Michael Carter-Williams play will give you essentially the same scouting report.
6-foot-6 point guard with sensational passing skills. A slippery penetrator, who isn’t overly explosive but has long enough strides and a good enough change of pace to beat a defender off the dribble. A terror defensively due to his wingspan and anticipation. And, perhaps most importantly, a future NBA All-Star if he can ever learn how to shoot.
It really is that simple right now.
Carter-Williams entered Thursday night leading the nation in assists and fourth in the nation in steals, averaging 9.5 dimes and 3.7 steals per game. He didn’t disappoint in an 84-53 win over Long Beach State either, finishing with 10 assists and three steals to go along with 15 points.
But the most important stat to come out of Thursday’s win is that MCW hit three of his first four threes after entering the game just 1-15 from long distance on the season. He finished just 3-8 on the night, but the fact that he hit three threes in one game leaves some room for hope that maybe, possibly, somewhere inside MCW there is a shooter.
Because, in addition to how much better it makes him as a prospect, being able to consistently knock down threes will make Syracuse just that much better as a team. Given the fact that they are already widely considered a serious challenger to Louisville in the Big East, that should tell you what the upside is for the Orange.
Syracuse only has two real “shooters” on their roster: James Southerland and Trevor Cooney. Neither of them start, although Southerland plays starter minutes. Brandon Triche can shoot — he hit 35% from beyond the arc last season — but he’s a long way from what you would label a dangerous shooter and entered Thursday knocking them down at a 26.1% clip. As a team, the Orange are shooting 29.5% from beyond the arc on the season.
MCW is on another level as a playmaker, but as the level of competition for the Orange increases, so will the defensive resistance he faces when attacking the basket. If he — and the Orange as a whole — improve on their perimeter shooting, that only creates more space for MCW and that big, athletic Syracuse front line.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.