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February 17, 2016

One year later, looking back at the Michael Carter-Williams trade

Sixers NBA

Almost a year ago to the day, the move that writer Brian Windhorst recently called “The Great Point Guard Trade of 2015” went down. In Philly, it’s known as “The MCW Trade.” In case you don’t remember, here are the details:

Phoenix Suns get: Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall (via Milwaukee

Milwaukee Bucks get: Michael Carter-Williams (via Philly), Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis (via Phoenix)

Philadelphia 76ers get: Los Angeles Lakers’ 2015 top-five protected pick (via Phoenix)

A year later, so much has changed in Philadelphia, specifically the major presence of Jerry Colangelo in the front office. At the time, I gave Sam Hinkie and the Sixers front office a B+ for the move. Others weren’t necessarily quite as bullish. Here was what I wrote:

It’s a little bit of a gamble considering the pick’s uncertainty, but I’d rather wager on that than Carter-Williams’ jumper turning around. This is very solid value.

A year later, who came out on top? Maybe nobody.

Trading Carter-Williams at least seems like it was the right move. The Bucks stumbled into the playoffs at the end of last season and they have the fifth worst point differential in the league to go with a 22-32 record in 2015-16. Windhorst and Marc Stein report that Carter-Williams is “undeniably gettable” at the deadline. Zach Lowe said the Bucks “remain unconvinced” that MCW is the long-term answer at point guard.

The Bucks have been slightly better on both ends of the floor with Carter-Williams on the court this year, but the poor shooting is still a big problem. MCW is shooting 29 percent from three-point range and 66 percent from the free-throw line. At 24 years old, Carter-Williams making major improvements in those areas starts to become a tougher sell. Not impossible, but not necessarily likely either.

That said, and this is where we have to be careful, there is a difference between making a decent decision to cut ties with a player and winning a trade.

The Sixers could have traded Carter-Williams for Knight straight up, and the Phoenix Suns decided to give Knight five years and $70 million in the offseason. Knight is a better shooter than MCW, but he has taken a step back along with his team this season.

Instead, Hinkie decided that he wanted the draft choice and the uncertainty that came with it. Is Kris Dunn a star NBA point guard if the pick happens to convey this season? Maybe, but probably not. Could Dragan Bender be the next Porzingis? Maybe, but we have no idea. If the pick rolls over to next year and the Lakers remain terrible, could the Sixers take advantage of what should be a much stronger class? Sure, but the point is that there are a lot of variables at play here.

Maybe my instant grade for the deal should have been “incomplete.” That is because the Sixers probably won’t lose this trade in the long run (which is a sign of a smart gamble), but they might not necessarily win it, either.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann