Tyler Ennis (left) and Miles Plumlee (right) will make their debut with the Bucks on Friday, while Michael Carter-Williams is still working his way back from a sprained right toe.
Mark J. Rebilas/Brace Hemmelgarn
MILWAUKEE — Michael Carter-Williams saw the tweet, as did Jason Kidd.
When someone with the credentials of Magic Johnson shares his opinion, it draws attention. The Hall of Fame took to Twitter on Thursday to compare Carter-Williams to his new coach, a soon to be Hall of Famer.
"I wish he would have said he would be the next Magic Johnson because then he would be a much better player than Jason Kidd," Kidd said with a smile. "We all believe in Michael. We see the potential, and we all want to help him get to Magic’s level. He needs to surpass my level. That’s average. He wants to be a star."
The Milwaukee Bucks introduced Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee at a press conference prior to Friday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, one day after acquiring the trio in a three-team deal that sent Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Phoenix.
Ennis and Plumlee will make their debut with the Bucks on Friday, while Carter-Williams is still working his way back from a sprained right toe.
Carter-Williams is the centerpiece of the trade and will be tasked with replacing Knight as Milwaukee’s floor general once he’s healthy. The 23-year-old is the first reigning NBA Rookie of the Year to be traded in his second season since Chris Webber in 1994.
"After I got over the shock, I was ecstatic," Carter-Williams said. "I was happy about being able to play under someone like coach Kidd. It is a dream come true to me. I watched him play when I was younger. Even before I knew I was coming here, I always said to a lot of people that I try to emulate my game after his. It’s a dream come true and I’m really happy to be here."
After averaging 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 70 games as a rookie, Carter-Williams was putting up averages of 15.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in 41 games with Philadelphia this season.
He’s produced five triple-doubles in 111 career games – only five active players have 10 triple-doubles — and joined Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies to ever average at least 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Now he gets to work with Kidd on a daily basis, something that helped Knight improve his game this season.
"I don’t want to get in his way," Kidd said of Carter-Williams. "I need to help him make the game easier for him. He has the tools to be very good. My job is to put him in position to be successful and also to make his teammates better. He can already do that. Hopefully I can help him with that and speed up the process of him reaching his goals. We’ll sit down and talk about what he wants to achieve in this league."
The obvious difference between Knight and Carter-Williams is shooting ability. Knight turned himself into one of the better shooting point guards in the NBA, while Carter-Williams is a career 39.6 field-goal shooter and has hit just 26.1 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Where Carter-Williams holds the edge over night is passing the ball and creating for his teammates. According to Vantage Sports, Knight is averaging 9.45 assists per 100 chances, while Carter-Williams is at 11.39 despite playing with a roster filled with players who don’t belong in the NBA.
The Bucks expect Carter-Williams’ offensive efficiency to rise with the move to Milwaukee where he will be inserted into a rotation that has excelled at moving the ball.
"When you look at the way Philadelphia plays — if you are a GM, coach or player the way they play is shooting terrible shots," Bucks forward Jared Dudley said. "Your stats are so deflated as far as your shooting percentage because it is how the brand of basketball is over there right now. But coming here it is good basketball. He’ll get better quality shots."
While also acknowledging he can improve his shot, Carter-Williams agreed with Dudley’s sentiment.
"I think I’m going to be able to take better shots," Carter-Williams said. "I won’t have to force any, and just playing against this team, they do move the ball really well. I’m going to continue to work on my shot every single day, and just try to improve that. I think this situation is going to help me a lot."
Milwaukee should also be able to improve defensively with Carter-Williams at point guard. The Bucks are already second in the NBA in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 99.3. Adding the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams, who is one of the best guards in the league at keeping opponents in front of him defensively, will only add to what has been Milwaukee’s strength.
"That’s the goal," Kidd said. "That’s one of the things we talked about coming into training camp. Our offense will come as this process goes. We feel with his ability, length and height, deflections and steals are things he’s already good at. Hopefully that can put us in a better seat defensively. Being a bigger guard, he can help us rebound. That’s something we struggle with."
The 76ers have not put an NBA product on the court over the past two seasons, as Philadelphia is trying to accumulate as many draft picks as possible as part of its rebuilding plan.
During Carter-Williams’ tenure in Philadelphia, the 76ers went 31-104. It was a drastic shock for a player who went 64-13 during his two years at Syracuse.
"It’s going to be different, and I’m excited for it," Carter-Williams, who helped Syracuse to the Final Four during his sophomore season, said. "I believe that I’m a winner. I’ve won pretty much my whole life. This last year-and-a-half, you know, has been a struggle, and it’s something that I’ve had to go through. I always believed that brighter days were ahead of me while going through that process. I think those brighter days start now."
Ennis and Plumlee were on Phoenix’s team bus ready to head to the airport when they were informed of the trade. A video has made its way across the Internet of multiple Suns players being pulled off the bus, including Ennis and Plumlee.
Plumlee will help Milwaukee’s frontcourt depth, while Ennis should find minutes off the bench for the Bucks after being buried on Phoenix’s bench behind three point guards.
"It has just been a whirlwind," Plumlee said. "I knew there were a lot of possibilities, but I don’t think anybody really knew anything for sure. I didn’t get a text until after 1 o’clock (MST), so I thought I made it and I was still on the team. Then one by one we kept getting texts and guys kept getting up. It was kind of crazy."
After shootaround Friday, Bucks general manager John Hammond said if the franchise is going to "talk the talk" of building a championship-caliber team, they need to "walk the walk" and do so.
This trade gives Milwaukee three high-level prospects at point guard (Carter-Williams), small forward (Giannis Antetokounmpo) and power forward (Jabari Parker). All three of those players are under team control through 2017.
"When you look at the makeup of the team, you have your starting point guard and your backup point guard (Ennis) both under the age of 23," Kidd said. "We have a big summer this summer with (restricted free agent) Khris (Middleton).
"You look at the one, three and four are pretty much settled. Then we have a committee at the five. The makeup of this team is pretty much set. Now it is just a matter of can we keep them together for five to seven years so they can have that consistency."