The Bulls couldn’t just let the Chicago Cubs get all the spotlight on Saturday. Chicago added to one of the most dysfunctional offseasons in the history of the organization by making one last shock-inducing move: trading struggling bench player Tony Snell for former Rookie of the Year Michael-Carter Williams.
This trade isn’t as much of a landslide victory as it seems for the Bulls. Snell, despite being a largely awful NBA player, is a 35.1 percent shooter from the behind the arc in a year where Chicago needs any shooting they can get. Nonetheless, trading a player who didn’t figure into the rotation for potentially the main backup to Rajon Rondo has to be considered a no-brainer move for the Bulls.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at MCW and how he can help the Bulls this season.
THE GOOD: DEFENSE AND PASSING
Offense is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most fans when thinking about Carter-Williams, but defense will actually be his biggest asset this season. MCW rates as above-average in pretty much any publicly available defensive metrics you can find.
RPM? He ranked 12th among point guards last season with a mark of 0.37 points allowed per 100 possessions.
On-court vs. off-court? The Bucks were better on defense with MCW on the floor for both of his seasons in Milwaukee, including allowing three points less per 100 possessions with him on the floor during the 2014-15 season when the Bucks were the No. 2 defense in the entire league.
Synergy? He ranked in the 70.8th percentile in ISO defense and an elite 88.5th percentile in pick-and-roll defense. The latter was the seventh-highest mark in the league (min. 100 pick-and-roll defensive possessions and 25 percent frequency).
Carter-Williams is excellent at using his length and lateral quickness to stifle opposing players. He regularly gets his hands in passing lanes and forces turnovers, something the Bulls seldom did last season. His steal percentage of 2.5 was among the 20 highest marks in the league, per Basketball-Reference (min. 1,500 MP).
MCW also uses his length to corral rebounds that most point guards wouldn’t be capable of securing.
Three guards in the entire league finished with a rebound percentage of 9.5 percent or higher: Russell Westbrook, Will Barton, and Carter-Williams.
Furthermore, Danny Green and MCW were the only players 6-foot-6 or shorter to finish with a block percentage of 2.0 or higher (min. 1,500 MP).
Isn’t that an interesting concept? A long, lanky player who uses that length to his advantage. Snell actually has an over four-inch wingspan advantage over Carter-Williams, yet finished with a steal percentage of 0.6, rebound percentage of 8.1, and block percentage of 1.0. Yeesh.
Offensively, before delving into the bad stuff, Carter-Williams is an adequate playmaker. His size is an asset on offense when seeing the floor and looking over smaller defenders.
His assist ratio of 26.5 ranked in the 88th percentile in the league last season.
Carter-Williams combination of defensive versatility and playmaking is a enough to make him a huge upgrade over Snell. The rest of MCW’s game is what prevents this trade from being a home run.
THE BAD: …EVERYTHING ELSE
MCW is a disastrous offensive player. His passing is impressive at times, but he’s reckless with the ball. Remember that great assist ratio mark? Well he ranked in the seventh percentile, yes, seventh percentile in turnover ratio, as he turned the ball over on a whopping 14.4 percent of his possessions last season.
He’s also one of the worst shooters in the league among guards. He made 15 three-pointers at a 27.3 percent clip all season and didn’t make up for it with his mid-range shooting (36.6 field-goal percentage from mid-range, well below league average). His 69 percent career free-throw percentage is also problematic because he’s actually adept at drawing fouls.
Carter-Williams uses his length well on the defensive end, but his long arms haven’t helped him finish at the rim at the NBA level. He finished just 56.4 percent of his shots at the basket last season (league average is 60.2 percent). That’s a major disappointment for someone with his elite length and above-average athleticism.
Altogether, MCW finished with a miserable ORPM of -1.73, ranking 65th among 77 NBA point guards last season. Adding another limited offensive player to the already shooting-deficient Bulls doesn’t make much sense on the surface, but it’s important to remember who Carter-Williams is replacing. Snell finished with an ORPM of -2.66, a mark that ranked 430th in the league.
MCW is an upgrade over Snell, but is he an upgrade over Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan, and Spencer Dinwiddie as the backup point guard? That’s for Fred Hoiberg to find out. Hopefully he gives each point guard the chance to earn minutes during the rest of the preseason instead of anointing Carter-Williams as the primary backup upon arrival.