Tuesday’s showdown in Philadelphia between 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams and Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo was more than just a spectacular display by two future stars. It was a microcosm of this season’s race for Rookie of the Year.
In case you live in an igloo, both Carter-Williams and Oladipo had their first career triple-doubles in a wild double-overtime affair won by the Sixers, 126-125. MCW had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 while the “Little O” had 26, 10 and 10.
This is less of a stat and more of an oddball occurrence, but according to Elias, it marked the first time in NBA history that two rookies had their first triple-doubles in the same game.
Carter-Williams and Oladipo have been 1-2 in our Rookie Rankings since the start of the season, with very little separating the two.
MCW started with a bang, winning the season’s first Player of the Week and hoarding the early buzz. But he missed four games with a bruised foot, coming back to the pack a little bit.
Oladipo began the season coming off the bench but is averaging 16.6 points since being moved into the starting lineup eight games ago. He seems to have gotten a handle on his troubles with turnovers.
In their first matchup Nov. 27 in Orlando, Carter-Williams won the statistical battle but Oladipo’s Magic won the game. Now they are all even at one win apiece, with MCW still winning the numbers game.
“It’s not me vs. Oladipo,” Carter-Williams said Tuesday. “It’s Sixers vs. Orlando. It’s a team game.”
Sorry, kid. When folks tune in to watch the Sixers or the Magic, they are not watching the Sixers or the Magic. They are watching a pair of rookies who could give us the best race in a while.
Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin – the last three Rookie of the Year winners – all were unanimous choices. The last time someone besides the winner even received a first-place vote was 2010, when it was a three-man race.
It that season, the sustained stats of Tyreke Evans overshadowed a quick start by Brandon Jennings and a furious finish by Stephen Curry. Evans received 67 first-place votes, Curry received 43 and Jennings 12.
We could have a similar scenario this season. In addition to Carter-Williams and Oladipo, Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke is working his way into the discussion since returning from a broken hand. All three do plenty of ballhandling for
tanking rebuilding teams, so the playing field appears level.
Carter-Williams and Oladipo meet twice more four days apart in late February and early March. The Sixers visit Utah on Feb. 12 and host the Jazz on March 8. The Magic entertain Utah on Wednesday and travel to Salt Lake City on March 22.
It should be fun.
On to the rankings.