2021 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Michael Carter-Williams in position to thrive off bench

Michael Carter-Williams has found his home in Orlando and established his role off the bench. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Carter-Williams has found his home in Orlando and established his role off the bench. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Michael Carter-Williams, the former Rookie of the Year turned journeyman, has finally found his home. He plays a valuable role for the up-and-coming Orlando Magic as they push for the playoffs.

Most known for his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers, Michael Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds during his rookie season. He won Rookie of the Year — over the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo — and seemed destined for a strong career.

But in the years following his successful first-year performance, his play slowly diminished.

After playing for the 76ers, the former Syracuse guard would go on to play for four more teams before landing on the Magic. Michael Carter-Wiliams first joined the Magic in 2019 on a 10-day contract. He played only 12 games before the team made its return to the playoffs, but he fit in seamlessly. Re-signing him that offseason — and then again this offseason —  became a no-brainer.

After playing solid minutes off the bench last season, Carter-Williams re-signed with the Magic on a two-year deal worth around $6 million. This signing could have been the Magic’s most important signing this past offseason.

He has found his home in Orlando and found a role that makes the most of his abilities. He is not the Rookie of the Year anymore, but Carter-Williams is a key role player again. And someone who will have a major impact on this Magic team.

Carter-Williams is far from a perfect player. But for a team that lacks some edge, Carter-Williams is able to mix things up and provide some necessary chaos to the team.

People often get stuck on Carter-Williams’ inability to shoot the ball. He is a career 25.6-percent shooter from behind the arc. But that is not why he earned himself a new contract with the Magic.

His effect on the game extends beyond his inability to score from multiple spots on the floor. It is his defense, playmaking and ability to play within a system that makes him valuable.

Measuring in as a 6-foot-6 combo guard, Carter-Williams is one of the most capable guard defenders in the league. He shares the same defensive rating of 107 per 100 possessions as guards like Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Patrick Beverley of the LA Clippers.

Carter-Williams even got the counting stats to back up his defense. He totaled 22 blocks and 49 steals in 45 games last year. Markelle Fultz, by comparison, totaled 11 blocks and 90 steals in 72 games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Carter-Williams also posted a significantly higher defensive box plus-minus of 1.6 to Fultz’s 0.0 thus making him the best defensive guard on the roster.

Besides his reliable defense, Carter-Williams is also a suitable passer and is capable of running the pick and roll. Carter-Williams often spent his time with the second unit which mostly consisted of Khem Birch, Gary Clark or Terrence Ross. Optimizing every possession was the key to maintaining pressure on opposing teams.

Finding Ross for an open three or making the correct lead pass to a rolling Birch was essential to pushing the offense for the second unit. In order for the Magic to take the next step to the top half of the Eastern Conference, their offense needs to improve. Improving the bench’s offensive performance will have a direct effect on the Magic’s overall offensive efficiency this year.

The Magic ranked 25th in three-point shooting in the NBA last season and that needs to change.

Much of that improvement will be reliant on the three-point shooting of Gary Clark and James Ennis. Neither are wholly reliable shooters.

Because the Magic did not make any significant three-point shooting additions to the roster, improvement will need to come from within. Clark is a career 32.1-percent 3-point shooter while Ennis is a 35.0-percent from range.

Carter-Williams will play a role in boosting the second unit’s shooting with his playmaking and vision.

Looking ahead to this season, Carter-Williams will most likely be working with the second unit again which now includes rookies Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke. Coach Steve Clifford will rely heavily on Carter-Williams to run the offense as Anthony is still adjusting to the pace of the NBA.

Understanding Carter-Williams’ role within the Magic is crucial to understanding the true impact he has on the roster.

His ability to slash, play bigger than he is on defense and set up teammates with quality looks is what he excels at.

Next. Gary Clark should be a true stretch-4. dark

His improvements across the board should have Magic fans feeling excited for what Carter-Williams has to offer for one of the more important years for the Magic.