It is sort of ironic that on the same day that the Sixers' last Rookie of the Year officially ended his career, the future of the franchise and current rookie-of-the-year-hopeful Michael Carter-Williams began his.
It was October 30, 2013, and we were staring down the start of an extremely uncertain season. We had just witnessed the iconic Iverson retire, and Sixernation wasn't quite sure what to expect out of the rookie point guard from Syracuse, starting in his first career game at 22 years of age.
What we got was 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals, 7 rebounds and a lot of hope for the future of the franchise.
Since opening night, Carter-Williams has hit a couple speed bumps but hasn't slowed much, and he has people in Philadelphia, and around the league at large, praising his play.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson tweeted that he believed Carter-Williams would be the Rookie of the Year after watching only his opening night performance. While it will take a lot more than a single game to win the award for Carter-Williams, he is well on his way and his play continues to impress.
The Sixers haven't had an NBA Rookie of the Year award recipient since Iverson took home that hardware almost twenty years ago, after the 1996-1997 season. The organization hasn't really even had a player in close consideration for the award since A.I., as Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiay and Evan Turner all finished outside of the top three in final voting.
With his surprisingly strong play so far this season, Carter-Williams is looking like he is ready to snap that streak for the Sixers.
Although he dropped down to 11th overall in June's draft, Carter-Williams has looked the most poised and prepared out of pack. He has been extremely impressive for the Sixers in almost every aspect of the game, and his basketball IQ has been especially impressive to head coach Brett Brown.
"He has a far greater intellect as a point guard than I would have guessed," Brown stated last week.
After flirting with a triple-double in his first career game, Carter-Williams wasted little time in building and campaigning his R.O.Y. case.
As a starting NBA point guard, he has displayed the ability to score the ball, set up opportunities for others, and defend different positions - all ideal abilities.
Statistically, Carter-Williams is leaps and bounds above almost all other rookies. He currently leads all first-year players in most major statistical categories, including points (17), assists (7), and steals per game (3.1).
Carter-Williams doesn't stop with just the major categories, however. He has shown the ability to attack and get to the rim, and in return he leads all rookies in free throw attempts as well. He is also tied with the Celtics' Kelly Olynyk, a center, for total rebounds per game. Carter-Williams leads all rookies in defensive rebounds per game.
It is not just that Carter-Williams is leading these categories that is impressive however, it is how much he is leading some of them by.
At 17 points per game, MCW is averaging almost a full four points more than the second highest rookie scorer, Victor Oladipo (13.2). The same trend can be seen with assists, where Carter-Williams' seven a game are almost three more than Nate Wolters' 4.4, and steals (3.14 for MCW, 1.65 for the second-place Oladipo).
So, Carter-Williams isn't so much leading the other rookies statistically as he is dominating them. Even in an area like defensive rebounding, where you wouldn't expect a point guard to thrive, Carter-Williams has been able to outperform his peers.
Opportunity has accounted for some of Carter-Williams statistical advantage, as he is currently the only rookie averaging more than 30 minutes of play per night; yet another area where MCW leads all rooks. He is playing about 36 minutes a night, more than the likes of LeBron James and Stephen Curry, and has clearly gained the confidence of his coach.
The season is still young, but Michael Carter-Williams has already established himself as one of the league's premier rookies, and has begun to build a great case toward receiving Rookie of the Year honors. If he can continue to produce at a similar pace for the rest of the season, then the hardware should be his to take home.
Since the Sixers' last Rookie of the Year retired at the start of the season, the timing seems fitting.