Posted June 17, 2013

NBA draft Toss-up: Better PG prospect, Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams?

2013 NBA draft, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke
Trey Burke guards Michael Carter-Williams

Trey Burke (left) and Michael Carter-Williams are both expected to be early first-round picks. (John W. McDonough/SI)

Beyond both of them playing the same position, there are not a lot of similarities between Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams. But which of them is the better NBA prospect? Today’s Toss Up breaks it down.

Physical traits

Skill remains the most important thing at the NBA level, but size definitely matters. Height isn’t a deal-breaker at the point guard position like it can be elsewhere on the floor, but bigger remains better if the rest of the package remains relatively equal.

An excellent athlete, Carter-Williams is approaching 6-foot-6 in shoes (which is how most people play basketball) with a 6-7 1/2 wingspan. At only 185 pounds or so, he’s going to have to add some weight as he goes, but his height aids his refined passing ability and his wingspan should help him defend the position.

Burke is about five inches shorter than Carter-Williams, but weighs the same. Burke’s wingspan, though, is north of 6-5, which helps a good amount. He’s not the athlete Carter-Williams is in terms of leaping and overall agility, but he’s certainly a solid one himself. He’s going to have to prove he can not only run offenses against larger and/or stronger defenders but also defend on the ball and be able to consistently get around NBA screens.

Advantage: Carter-Williams

Prospect breakdowns: McLemoreNoel | Len | Oladipo | Bennett | Burke

Isolated skills

Burke is a very good shooter from the point guard spot, especially considering how often he ended up shooting off the dribble coming off a screen. He runs the pick-and-roll very well for a college guard, making good reads but more importantly timing the action well. He’s also a solid passer and can get out and lead the break effectively. He was a decent-but-not-great defender at Michigan.

Carter-Williams is a very sketchy shooter, even though his stroke doesn’t look too bad. He’s a very good passer and good in transition. Defensively, he was disruptive in the Syracuse zone, but obviously will have to make an adjustment to playing heavy man defense in the pros. He seems to have the ability to do it, but it’s a question mark.

Advantage: Burke

More prospect breakdowns: Muhammad | Porter | Zeller | Carter-Williams

Functional (in-game) skills

Burke was the National Player of the Year for a reason: He was really, really good on a really young team. He’s a more complete and refined player than Carter-Williams at this stage. (It helps that Burke played considerably more as a freshman — over 35 minutes a game — than Carter-Williams did as a reserve.)

Carter-Williams put up bigger numbers in Syracuse’s non-league schedule (read: mostly at home against outclassed foes) than he did in the Big East, where teams figured out pretty quickly that the Orange couldn’t shoot at all from the perimeter (especially when James Southerland wasn’t available or hot). When you’re the point guard on a team that can’t score, that’s a sizable demerit.

The two faced off in the national semifinals and both were very poor.

Bottom line: If you need a guy to be pretty good right out of the chute, you need Burke.

Advantage: Burke

NBA range of possibilities

As mentioned in Burke’s breakdown last week, a wide range of NBA comparables suggest that Burke should be, at worst, a fairly capable NBA player. If his skills translate well and his size is less of an issue than it seems, his upside is very solid. He’s a very talented player who has been upstaging doubters for awhile.

Carter-Williams is a much larger boom/bust pick. His size, passing skills and athletic ability are tantalizing (even though the list of tall, successful NBA point guards isn’t very lengthy). Carter-Williams is an “if” guy. If he can become a more competent jump shooter, if he can transition into an above-average man defender, if he’s a bit more careful with the ball, etc. If more “ifs” than not become reality, Carter-Williams could be tough to handle. If the present is closer to what he will be down the road, Burke has the better future.

It all comes down to roster fit and appetite for risk. All things being equal, I’d rather avoid a bust with a high lottery pick than gamble on a star, but you have to evaluate each situation separately.

Slight advantage: Burke

In the end, Burke is probably the choice for most general managers, but you can definitely make an argument for Carter-Williams, especially if a team already has shooters and could use a pass-first point guard with the size to defend more than one position.

7 comments
jsteppling
jsteppling

oh please, this isnt even serious. Burke is MAYBE the 3rd best pg...Carter Williams and Schroder via for number one....and honestly Shane Larkin and even kabongo and wolters are about equal with burke. ..Burke is 5 11...he is DJ augustin essentially. Not explosive...and while he might end up a starter....his ceiling is low. MCW could be a star and Schroder is mini rondo....certainly a higher risk pick, but man, he is quick ...super long arms, big hands...and a terrific shooter off the dribble. MCW has to tighten his handle is my only complaint. Burke might get taken high...but Im guessing not. He is at the bottom of the lottery......

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

Many good points but the writer made a great point at the end of the article.  When selecting a player within the first 7 or 8 picks, you better not miss.  Not that they have to be a star, but they better not be a Darko...  Carter does have a higher upside, which isn't bad if you're picking him say 17th in the draft or even lower.  If Burke is drafted say 6th, you want someone who is going to play for you for years and contribute, which Burke will do...

OK
OK

Burke can take no more than two dribbles to his left. Overplay him to that side, and you nix Burke's game.

Jameson
Jameson

I'm biased because I saw a lot more of Burke than I did of Carter-Williams but Burke has that "I hate to lose" mentality. Plus, he's not afraid to take, and make, important shots. For me, the ability to score is the trump card. Carter-Williams is just an average college shooter. Can he improve? Of course, Jason Kidd willed himself into at least a stationary 3 point shooter but that took years! I don't see size as a big issue...Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and 2 time MVP Steve Nash are all between 6'0" and 6'3" and Nash couldn't guard me. Better skill level and dogged attitude tips the scale to Burke for me for a high lottery pick. Carter-Williams later in the draft could develop into a steal. High lottery is a big risk, imo.

dreynolds48941
dreynolds48941

@jsteppling Burke is close to two inches taller than Augustin and has longer arms.  MCW and Shroder in particular have higher upsides, but Burke is better than either of them right now.  MCW's inability to handle the ball effectively could prevent him from ever reaching his potential and Schroder has to improve his game and physique to start in the NBA.  Burke is a super upside pick, but he could easily be a Jameer Nelson-type player in the NBA.

glenrcoburn
glenrcoburn

@OK He is actually better going to his left than his right.

jsteppling
jsteppling

@dreynolds48941 @jsteppling Valid points....although he's not two inches taller than Augustin. But that aside....he lacks explosion. I dont see him as nearly the athlete schroder or MCW is. Im not a huge fan of carter williams, but i get the appeal. And he stepped up in the NCAAs which suggested his upside. Burke has all the intangibles....great heart....but just not going to ever be even a jameer nelson .... though thats probably his uppermost ceiling. It will be interesting because i think there are several terrifically underrated points targeted in the 2nd. Myck Kabongo, McCallum, Arbrines (so im told) and even pierre jackson....who IS small. But Kabango is hugely undervalued now. AND....peyton siva....honestly, Id rather have siva than burke. But we have to wait.....thanks for the thoughts.