Trey Burke in Philadelphia 76ers red.
Michael Carter-Williams in Utah Jazz blue.
As the two rookies met on the court for the first time as pros Wednesday, it was easy to wonder what they might look like if their jerseys were swapped.
In June, the Jazz had their pick between the two young floor generals. They chose Burke, the college Player of the Year, letting Carter-Williams fall to the Sixers two picks later.
“We needed a point guard,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said, emphasizing Burke’s natural prowess at the position. “[I liked] the way he can score the ball. The big moments when he stepped up and made big played; he didn’t get rattled. I thought it was a fit we liked.”
Carter-Williams, the 22-year-old from Syracuse, knows he could have just as easily been wearing a Jazz hat on draft night.
“I think it gives me a little bit of an edge — a chip on my shoulder,” he said Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena. “But Trey’s a great player. The Jazz made a great choice.”
Their paths will cross again soon. Burke and Carter-Williams will play together Friday night in New Orleans, when the league’s best rookies and sophomores compete in the Rising Stars Challenge. And they’ll get a chance to go back to competing against one another in early March, when the Jazz visit the Sixers.
On Wednesday, Carter-Williams dominated statistically. He had 19 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
“He started understanding how to get his shot, how to get others involved,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “He did it under a real calm flow to the game. It showed. His size showed a lot when he was able to get the point at 6-foot-6. I thought it was one of his best games.”
Burke had only seven points and two assists.
But his team got the win.
“You just look at somebody who is very comfortable shooting the ball,” Brown said of Burke. “It makes the game easier. You just see him as being a legitimately good player for a while.”
Carter-Williams has put up the bigger numbers all year, and appears to be headed toward the Rookie of the Year award. He leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game.
But former Coach of the Year winner and ESPN analyst Avery Johnson doesn’t believe that means the Jazz made a mistake.
“Nobody has a crystal ball in terms of who’s going to be the better pro five, seven, 10 year from now,” Johnson said. “You just don’t know. I think the Jazz did a terrific job in therms of their preparation and scouting and research. No matter what the numbers say, in my opinion, they drafted the right guy. And then Philly was fortunate enough to get [Carter-Williams].
“Both of these young men are really good young players and they’ll be terrific point guards for their teams for a long time.”
Johnson likened the debate surrounding the two point guards to the battles on and off the court between Deron Williams, whom the Jazz selected with the third overall pick in 2005, with Chris Paul still on the board.
Burke and Carter-Williams will always be tied to one another, and Johnson doesn’t expect the comparisons to end anytime soon.
“That’s going to continue through their NBA careers,” Johnson said.
Comparing rookie point guards Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams
Team Gms FG% 3% FT% Pts Reb Ast Stl
Burke Utah 40 36.8 33.7 90.8 12.5 3.1 5.5 0.6
Carter-Williams Phil. 42 39.6 29.1 70.4 17.1 5.4 6.5 2.1