Michael Carter-Williams surely would have wished for a better final impression on the college hardwood. The 6'5" point guard spent the last minute of Syracuse's Final Four loss to Michigan on the bench, having fouled out after a two-point, 1-for-6 shooting performance that included two assists and five turnovers. Yet even as Carter-Williams was struggling mightily on offense last weekend, he was part of a suffocating zone defense that held Trey Burke, another point guard widely projected to go in the lottery, to seven points on 1-for-8 shooting. A longtime NBA scout tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv that he thinks Carter-Williams' overall performance in the tournament, highlighted by a season-high 24 points against top-seeded Indiana, has lifted his stock.
Carter-Williams currently checks in at No. 9 on Chad Ford's ESPN.com big board and No. 12 on Jonathan Givony's rankings at DraftExpress.com. It's quite a rise from a year ago, when he averaged just 10.3 minutes per game as a freshman buried behind Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine. Carter-Williams might not be the best pro prospect among point guards in the draft, as some argued during a hot streak earlier this season, but his superior size allows him to disrupt offenses, having averaged 2.8 steals per game this year. He can play shooting guard, but his passing and ball-handling skills scream "point guard."
The stumbling block that could particularly affect him as a point man is his propensity for turnovers. He gave the ball away 3.4 times per game in 2012/13, negating his takeaways on defense. His shot is an issue as well, as he posted a shooting line of .393/.292/.694 this season. Both problems are correctable over time, however, so neither seems like a deal-breaker. The greater question may surround how well his defensive ability translates to man-to-man schemes from Syracuse's full-time zone, and scouts and executives will probably be looking for answers to that during pre-draft workouts.
That's when Carter-Williams expects to make his case to be the No. 1 overall pick. He believes Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore would go first if the draft were today, but Carter-Williams thinks he can overtake him, as he tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
"If I go in the pre-draft camp and kill it and do the things I know I can do, I don't see why not," he said.
As with just about every prospect, the order in which teams will be drafting could go a long way in determining when Carter-Williams is selected. Assuming his stock doesn't jump as he's predicting, there might not be much call for a point guard where he's projected to be drafted. The five teams currently in line to pick eighth through 12th all have youthful incumbent point guards. Of the clubs likely to wind up with mid- to late-lottery picks, the Hornets, Kings and Mavs seem likeliest to go after a point guard, though trades could shake that up. The best bet for Carter-Williams is probably a team that can afford to be patient, since he could struggle to adjust defensively and have trouble on offenses as well, given the importance of floor spacing and long-range shooting in today's NBA.
Still, it seems he has the gifts and passing ability necessary to allow him to become better at the pro game than he was at the college game, a feat Carter-Williams told Spears he believes he can accomplish. Given the timing of those comments, made four days after this weekend's nightmare against Michigan, it doesn't sound like that performance has caused him to lose confidence, and that, too, will be an asset at the next level.