Today, we post the final Part 3 of Clint Johnson’s PG prospect breakdown of Michael Carter-Williams, Shane Larkin, and Dennis Schroeder. In case you missed them, you can read Part 1 and Part 2.
Carter-Williams: Very good with either hand and at speed, MCW sometimes does let his dribble raise a little high. He is agile with the ball and has good control, particularly for his size, but when heavily pressured his handle suffers, as does his decision making. Against NBA defenders, he will need to learn to keep control and use his substantial court vision in the face of quick, fast, determined on-ball pressure, something he struggles with at this point.
Larkin: A good dribbler with either hand, his dribble is very hard to time for deflection because he is short and fast. He doesn’t panic when pressured, including in double teams, keeping his dribble alive and drawing pressure away from the hoop to give himself and teammates room to operate. He dribbles in straight lines and gets from place to place very quickly, not often juking or making use of change of speed. He is likely the most secure with the ball of the three.
Schroeder: His ability with the ball is so great he sometimes becomes careless, even in double teams. Also, he has a unique vulnerability among these ball handlers: weak hands. It takes very little to rip the ball away from him, which is even more costly because of his tendency to be cavalier with his dribble. But he counters this liability with a supreme ability to warp a defense with the basketball in his hands—most impressively, by getting a defender on his back and keeping him there as he maintains his dribble, almost forcing the defense to play 4 on 5. He really reminds me of Steve Nash in those moments, refusing to give up his dribble in the interior of a defense, taking his time as he probes and manipulates angles to set up teammates.
Carter-Williams: 2.8 stls, 0.5 blks. A disruptive risk taker who is really helped by his height and length, MCW shows lots of potential that is hard to project to the NBA because he constantly played zone defense at Syracuse. He has good anticipation in passing lanes and quick hands; he also covers a lot of ground quickly, getting into lanes that appear clear. His length and speed help him recover after many of the risks he takes, but as a consequence he plays out of position quite often. Against penetration he is prone to swiping at the ball rather than fighting to maintain the best position possible. A high risk/reward defender, he will need to get stronger and more disciplined to fulfill his defensive potential at the next level.
Larkin: 2.0 stls, 0.1 blks. A quick and active defender, Larkin simply can’t overcome his physical shortcomings. His greatest defensive ability is stealing the ball from the backside using his speed, and he employs this fairly often, to the point of letting his man get some distance so Larkin can try to zip around behind him for the steal. When in defensive position, he is nearly always at a significant disadvantage. He finds it very difficult to maintain position against bigger and stronger penetrators, lacks the length and strength to recover when out of position, and doesn’t contest shots very well. He can be abused by height, length, or power, and looks to give up most or all these attributes practically every night in the NBA, suggesting he will be a substantial liability as a defender. Larkin is greatly outclassed by the other prospects as a defender.
Schroeder: 0.9 stls, 0.0 blks. This is one area where the limited film on Schroeder cuts counter to the statistics, as he looks like the best defender of the bunch to me. His modest stats are partially a product of limited game time and his defensive strategy, which is based on good, intense defensive positioning. He does reach quite often, particularly when he cuts players with the dribble off, but the reaching is often quick pokes not slaps, designed as much to annoy as grab the ball. He can also read passing lanes, but often just stabs with his long arms rather than jumping into the lanes and costing himself defensive position. He shows supreme confidence that he has the advantage over the man he is guarding, which gives him a rare aggressive defensive attitude. His most demonstrative celebrations come from defensive triumphs, very rare in such a young player.
Carter-Williams: A boom or bust pick that, if I had to wager on his future, I’d bet bust. His game strikes me as too fragile to likely succeed in the NBA; too many things negatively affect his game. Physicality throws off his shot and loosens his handle. Pressure causes him to make frequent bad decisions. Denial of penetration can seduce him into a spate of poor outside shooting, almost always misses, or make him disappear from the game. If he booms, he strikes me as a rangier Jason Kidd type, and so lacking a better option at 14, I would take a chance on him at that spot. But I wouldn’t be happy about it, and I would exhaust a number of options I consider superior (including other point guards, players at other positions, and trading up and back) before settling on this risky a pick.
Larkin: I just don’t like his game much for the NBA level, honestly, and I like it even less for the Jazz. I imagine his ceiling as Ty Lawson with a quicker trigger and less developed court vision, which sounds suspiciously like Earl Boykins or Nate Robinson. Even on a team that runs the pick and roll repeatedly, he will most likely take shots similar to Mo Williams calling his own number last year, marginalizing teammates. Add in the substantial defensive liability he will be, and I wouldn’t consider Larkin at 14 in any circumstance, and fully expect a better player to be available at 21. While Larkin seems a great young man, I don’t think his game will be great for the Jazz at all.
Schroeder: The more I watch Schroeder, the more I like him. I acknowledge the maturity concerns floating around, that he shows negative body language, has at times been difficult to coach, and may not work as hard as he could. But when it comes to his on-court game, he stands out. There is a self-possession to his game, a quality of perception and control. He is an exciting combination of intense defense and offensive facilitation, and views himself exactly this way. A weapon with the ball, Schroeder strikes me as similar to Tony Parker while being very different stylistically. When Parker has the ball in his hands attacking a defense, it feels like he is in control, and defenders, even when they double, are out of their league. When Schroeder gets into a defense and pauses, posting his man on his back, the defense looks brittle as glass, afraid to do anything decisive in anticipation of Schroeder using that choice against them.
Where Larkin runs the pick and roll well and MCW is a truly good passer, Schroeder orchestrates an offense. Even his slow shooting mechanics fail to dim my enthusiasm, because the Jazz need a pass first player to engage all their other young weapons, particularly the two young bigs. Schroeder is undoubtedly pass first, but unlike Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, he can hit an open kick out jumper at a high percentage. His weak hands are the only real concern I have, but I think this will improve with time and as his respect for other players ability to threaten him grows. Based on the footage, I would select Schroeder over any point guard in this draft, including Trey Burke. I think there is a high probability he becomes a quality starting point guard on both ends of the floor, a shorter hybrid of Rajon Rondo and Gary Payton. If he is available at 14, I will be disappointed if the Jazz select anyone else—unless they get him at 21, at which case I will be ecstatic.