Pelicans.com 1-on-1: Michael Carter-Williams
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Syracuse University point guard Michael Carter-Williams sat down with Pelicans.com following his Friday morning workout at the Alario Center to discuss his outlook on the upcoming June 27 draft. The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder spent two seasons at Syracuse, helping lead the Orange to the 2013 Final Four.
Pelicans.com: Why do you think your name has risen so rapidly on many mock drafts over the past few weeks?
Carter-Williams: I think that I’ve been able to prove (wrong) some of the questions people have, through my workouts.
Pelicans.com: What are some of the specific areas you feel you’ve proven to be better than projected?
Carter-Williams: That I can play some defense and I can shoot the ball.
Pelicans.com: Speaking of defense, from the way it sounded when you were speaking to the large group of media here, you’ve answered skeptical questions about your defense a lot, based on having played for a college team that primarily uses zone. Has that gotten frustrating?
Carter-Williams: Yes, it is frustrating. Because people assume that I can’t play defense, just because we played zone and they think that we just sat in a zone. For one thing, people act like I’ve never played man-to-man before. Two, they act like when you play in a zone you just stand there and do nothing. The zone is tough. There are a lot of man-to-man principles in it, and people don’t tend to know that. People don’t realize you had to work to keep people in front of us or to (execute) rotations. Just because you’ve never seen me play (man-to-man) defense doesn’t mean that I can’t play it. Why assume one thing when you don’t know?
Pelicans.com: Are there specific aspects of zone that you think may actually help you defensively in the NBA?
Carter-Williams: Definitely. Things like fighting through screens up top where there is no hedging (help defense that is available in man-to-man), that’s going to help me, because there are a lot of pick-and-rolls in the NBA. I’m so used to getting through screens by myself, or trying to beat the screen (before it’s set) without a big man to hedge. That will be really helpful and I think I can translate that to the NBA.
Pelicans.com: Are there facets of a zone defense that actually make it harder to play than man-to-man?
Carter-Williams: In zone, you’re constantly moving. As soon as the ball is reversed, you have to move. In man-to-man, if the guy you’re guarding is standing still, you kind of get a break. In a zone you get no rest. That makes it tough.
Pelicans.com: Which NBA players would you most compare yourself to in terms of style of play?
Carter-Williams: I’d say a little bit of a Jason Kidd or a Gary Payton, their style of play. They are bigger guards who really defend and pass the ball. I wouldn’t compare myself to them in terms of where I am right now, but how I model my game after them.
Pelicans.com: Do you see any comparisons between your situation this year and that of another Syracuse guard, Dion Waiters, who was a lottery pick in 2012?
Carter-Williams: I do. His first year in college he didn’t get to play that much, and the same thing with me. Our second years, we both had great years. He wasn’t really projected that high (initially) in the draft, but he got picked fourth. Hopefully I will be as blessed as him to be a top pick like that.
Pelicans.com: How important is how high you’re picked to you?
Carter-Williams: It is important to me, but that’s just my competitive side. I also realize that it’s important to go somewhere that is right for me.
Pelicans.com: From the players you’ve seen or competed against, who is your draft sleeper?
Carter-Williams: Ricky Ledo (of Providence College). I think he’s going to be really good in the NBA. He has a lot of talent, one of the most talented players in this draft. It’s going to be interesting to see where he goes, because he’s a tough player.