The Sixers began to turn their roster upside down back in 2013 when they traded their starting point guard Jrue Holiday and the 42nd pick in the 2013 draft (Pierre Jackson) for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick. Fans were left in confusion as to what they were doing, trading away arguably the best player on their team for a pick and a guy who was still injured. What they didn’t realize was that it was the first of many moves to rebuild the franchise behind the intelligent GM Sam Hinkie. Has that trade worked out though? Well, after Noel has finally returned to their team, it is becoming a bit clearer.
The Sixers drafted PG Michael Carter-Williams that night to replace Holiday, and he’s been their starting point guard ever since. MCW won the 2013-2014 Rookie of the Year Award in a poor group of rookies. He didn’t play poorly though, he averaged 16.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 6.3 APG, all great numbers. So what’s the problem then? Well, he has been an inconsistent shooter and is struggling even more with his shot this year, shooting just 38% from the field and 24% from beyond the arc. Noel has not been as great as expected, as he’s still getting used to the NBA game after missing all of last season. Has this switch in point guards been worth it? Let’s compare.
First of all, it doesn’t suggest that they’re completely happy with this rebuilding move after reports have come out that the Sixers are shopping Carter-Williams around the league. I’m sure they’re asking for a lot and that’s why he hasn’t been traded yet, but it’s clear they don’t love the way he’s been playing. What happens if they do trade him though? It would just push back the clock on when they’re ready to compete, which is the last thing fans want to hear. A lot of them are on board with Hinkie’s rebuilding process, but that’s only if it starts to show that it’s working. Trading Carter-Williams might suggest Hinkie’s first failed move, and it would be a big one.
Here’s a comparison of each player’s PER over their career:
2009-2010: Holiday (12.36)
2010-2011: Holiday (15.49)
2011-2012: Holiday (14.74)
2012-2013: Holiday (16.74)
2013-2014: Holiday (17.19), MCW (15.59)
2014-2015: Holiday (18.59), MCW (11.89)
There are a couple of things to take away from this data. First of all, to put it into perspective, PER is calculated so that the league average is 15.00. So, if a player has a PER of around that value, it means they add average value to their team. After four seasons with the Sixers, Holiday had an average PER of 14.83, just below average. Their team overall was pretty average as well, making the playoffs two seasons, but only winning one series (likely due to the injury to Derrick Rose). They finished 13th, seventh, eighth and ninth respectively in the four seasons Holiday was with them. It was obvious that something had to change or they’d be average forever.
So, that’s when they pulled the trigger and got rid of Holiday, and eventually pretty much everyone else on the roster. But here’s the problem. Holiday had just had the best season of his career, finishing with the best PER of his career as well as 17.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 8.0 APG, all career highs. He did turn the ball a little more than average, but his shooting percentages were pretty good. Maybe he wasn’t the reason they were so average.
In Holiday’s two seasons with the Pelicans (including this year), he’s had a PER of 17.19 and 18.59 respectively, both of which are higher than any season on the Sixers. Clearly he’s a good player. He’s not taking quite as many shots, but he’s focusing more on being a more efficient and helpful player. He’s not exactly a top 10 point guard in the league, but with so many great players at the position, it’s hard to expect him to be.
Carter-Williams is nowhere near the top 10 this year. He’s having a terrible year in terms of PER at 11.89. I know the Sixers are bad, but that’s a very bad number for anyone. As I mentioned before, his shooting percentages are terrible this year and don’t seem to show improvement from game to game. Many people argue that it could be a lack of supporting cast, but he still consistently misses wide open shots, while at the same time taking a lot of poor shots overall. That is a terrible combination to have. It’s clear that players who rack up a lot of points but have a poor shot selection never amount to much on a team basis, even if their individual stats look good. He averages less than a point per shot this season…aka, not good. He averages 4.4 turnovers per game, worst in the league. He’s also 43rd out of 47 qualified players in assist to turnover ratio. Again, not good.
Sure, it could just be a sophomore slump for MCW, but I have a feeling that’s not the whole picture here. Sure, there are a lot of things that he does well, but it seems like he may be suited better as a bench player who plays a lot like Tony Wroten. Holiday is more of a pure point guard who has learned shot discretion. In fact, he knew it from the beginning. Carter-Williams is a little more reckless and has therefore hurt his team in multiple situations with his poor play. Sometimes it’s hard to see it on paper until really looking at the stats, but Carter-Williams is having a pretty bad year.
I’m not necessarily saying the Sixers shouldn’t have traded away Holiday, but it makes me wonder what the team would be like with Holiday still leading the team compared to Carter-Williams. I know that based on recent numbers, Holiday has been playing better in almost every category. So why wouldn’t they want Holiday? It will be up for discussion for months.