Bio: Hailing from Hamilton, MA, Michael Carter-Williams attended South Hamilton High School as a freshman, where he led the conference in scoring. He then transferred to St. Andrew's School, a private boarding school in Rhode Island, where he led his league in scoring, as well as making the honor roll and acting in the the school's production of Aladdin. Interestingly, he played on the same AAU team as Nerlens Noel.
He elected to play for Syracuse coming out of high school after being recruited by a number of elite teams. He didn't get much playing time in his freshman year - about ten minutes per game backing up Dion Waiters and all-Big East point guard Scoop Jardine. He took the reins in his sophomore season at Syracuse, running the offense at the point.
He had a bizarre episode in December of his sophomore year - he was caught shoplifting in a mall. According to reports, he went into a fitting room, put a bathrobe and gloves into his backpack, and then left the store. A security guard caught him, however, and Michael Carter-Williams paid a $500 fine and admitted guilt in writing. He wasn't arrested and no charges were pressed - truly an odd story.
It's important to remember that Carter-Williams is a very old sophomore - he's 21 and will be 22 by the start of next season. In fact, he's as old as many seniors in the draft.
Offense: Carter-Williams's main strength on offense is his ability to pass. He's a fluid ball-handler with an explosive first step that can quickly get by defenders, while deploying an array of hesitation moves that can baffle opponents. His height - 6'6" - enables him to see passing lanes that many others can't see, and he has terrific court vision and creativity, often sending skip passes to open shooters on the wing. Statistically, he ranked second in DX's Top 100 Prospects in assists per possession - over 50%. As a result, he seems like an excellent fit as a drive-and-kick point guard in today's NBA.
Carter-Williams's weaknesses show up when he's forced to shoot - he's not a good shooter from inside the arc (44%) or beyond it (29%). Seeming to understand this, he often passed up available shots, becoming a decidedly pass-first point guard, rating in the bottom 15 of DX's top 100 prospects in field goals attempted per possession. In the NBA, one could easily imagine him being a Rajon Rondo type player in his first several years - opponents could leave him with wide open looks, sagging off him defensively and hurting his ability to get to the rim or pass the ball.
And although he has a knack for making the incisive pass, he also has a propensity to throw the ball away - he was tied for the worst turnover percentage (25%) in the top 100. More disturbingly, he turned the ball over in 28% of his pick and roll possessions, a skill he will certainly have to improve upon in the NBA. He's far less turnover prone in the open floor, running the fast break admirably. His extremely high assist rate helped propel his pure point ratio to a very solid 4.03 - second only behind Trey Burke's stratospheric 6.34 among top point guards.
Defense: Michael Carter-Williams has the tools to be an outstanding defender. He has great anticipation, quick reflexes, and a long, athletic body that would allow him to guard either point guards or shooting guards. He's particularly adept at generating turnovers - his 3.2 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted is better than the entire top 100 DX database - even better than the defensively lauded Victor Oladipo. His 6'5" wingspan is excellent for point guards, but not that impressive for a man that stands 6'6". He's a good defensive rebounder - in the top ten among point guards - but it's unclear how that would translate to the NBA game, considering that he played in a zone defense almost exclusively in college.
Though he clearly has the tools to play excellent defense, he didn't have the chance to show what he can do in college, since Syracuse famously plays their 3-2 zone defense for the vast majority of possessions. So though it's clear he can play passing lanes well and play good team defense, it's not as clear that he can defend a pick and roll or stay in front of a driving guard. Nonetheless, he projects to be a plus defender, even though he carries some extra uncertainty.
Overall: Straight out of college, Carter-Williams should be able to guard both the point and shooting guard positions, which is a skill of no small value. He'll also be able to probe defenses with his dribbling ability, and his passing skills should allow him to be a solid drive-and-kick point guard, as well as make him dangerous in transition. His turnover problems, poor pick-and-roll performance, and poor shooting should hamper his offensive output, however. His ceiling is high, but it's easy to imagine Michael Carter-Williams being unable to adjust to the NBA game.