When I learned that Trae Young was going to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, my mind began racing. No, it did not immediately think about which teams would be a good landing spot for the Oklahoma product. Rather, I began to think of all the hate articles that would be coming out. Me, on the other hand, will be going in an opposite direction. But first, you will not believe some of the outdated criticism Trae Young is facing nowadays…
Exhibit A: An Eastern Conference Scout sours on Young due to his lack of mid-range game. Yes, you read that correctly. If you still can’t believe it, see for yourself. The quote was featured in a recent Bleacher Report article.
In the words of every confused Hoophead out there…Wait, what? Speaking from experience, I personally cannot go 4 minutes without harping on Andrew Wiggins’ mid-range Js. I hate on his 17 foot pull-up as often as 15-year-olds refresh Instagram. And for good reason. For all those living under a rock (with meme celebrity Patrick Star), James Harden is going to win this year’s MVP award. The Beard will do so by eliminating mid-range Js from his game. In a literal sense, the dude scores one of three ways: shooting 3s, getting layups, or getting fouled. Check out how eerily similar his stat line is when compared to Young’s. Harden is putting up 20.4 shots per game and knocking them down at a 44.6% clip. Young put up 19.3 shots a game and hit 42.2% of them. In addition, Harden attempts 10.2 threes per contest and makes 36.2% of them. Similarly, Young attempted 10.3 threes per game and made 36% of them in his only season at Oklahoma. Finally, the free throw numbers are very similar. Both players attempt(ed) over 8.5 free throws per game and make more than 86% of those shots, terrific numbers.
What’s the point of this? To say that Trae Young is the next James Harden? No! But, look at how similar the FGA stats are, as well as the 3PA and FTA stats are. The percentages align also. If James Harden can have success with this modern 3P-or-Layup formula, why can’t Trae? The game is trending towards the way the OU guard plays, not away from it.
Exhibit B: NBA Scout knocks Young for his measurables: “I was never high on him to begin with because of his physical limitations, lack of athleticism and how he doesn’t defend. He’s not someone I would take in the lottery. He’s a good backup to me.”
A common criticism, this is one I will relish debunking. In today’s NBA, there is an obvious shift occurring. Mastery at a skill is a requirement in the modern game, no longer just a helpful accessory. If you are a big man who cannot perform well at either shooting threes, protecting the rim, or switching on PnRs…good luck. Ask Jah Okafor how he’s doing nowadays. How often do we see promising wings drafted because of their physical profile simply disappear from the League due to a lack of a jumper? It’s the reason Stanley Johnson will take 1,000 threes a day this summer. His career depends on it. Yes, skill is beginning to take precedence over physical profile.
And now, a list of players with similar builds to Trae Young- players that have excelled despite their height, wingspan and athletic limitations: Steph, Kyrie, IT, Kyle Lowry, Prime Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Kemba Walker, C.J. McCollum, and CP3.
At 6’4”, Nash may be the tallest of this group with Deron Williams (6’6.5”) claiming the best wingspan. None of these guys ever truly play(ed) above the rim. Instead, most of them relied on a lethal three pointer to open up the floor for them. Defenders will have to do the same for Trae. Will he routinely bomb treys from 30+ feet out? No. But once that guy gets even remotely close to the three-point line, defenders MUST guard him. I mean, if you can’t tell how deep he was when he drained this one against Arkansas, I sarcastically pointed it out for you.
Exhibit C: Scouts believe Young has a “slight build.” I agree. The kid is maybe 180 pounds soaking wet. Want to know something else that is true. He is 19-years-old. Do yourself a favor and Google what some of your favorite players looked like in college. Not everyone enters the League with a Guerschon Yabusele body. Again, I am not referencing a superstar for the sake of associating Trae Young with their talent level yet, Steph Curry had build issues as well. Everyone was worried about his ankles. Read this ESPN piece about how Curry changed his health by working on his core. Of course, Young does not share these ankles concerns. So why reference this story? The moral is that it is 2018 and if a trainer can fix someone’s ankles by strengthening their abs, I think Trae Young will find a way to build NBA-level stamina.
Is Young going to be the next NBA superstar? The odds say no. Despite these odds, fans and scouts alike need to stop committing the primordial crime of NBA armchair management: Overthinking. The kid struggled this year because teams figured out how to stop him. They threw him double and triple teams while constantly hitting him hard. Yeah, that would slow down even the best of players. Let’s not act like Young was playing with a cast of fellow draft picks, either. NBA spacing, paired with better teammates, will do wonders for Young. He won’t feel the need to jack up hero-balls the second he sees daylight; something he did too much of at OU. Sure, he has weaknesses. Young must become a better quarterback, too many of his passes end up in turnovers and too many of his shots give me Wiggins PTSD. Still, he’ll be just fine. Think C.J. McCollum with better vision. Worst case, the guy Jamal Crawford’s his way through the League for a decade.
The NBA GM who takes Young as the first guard off the board will have to trust his gut. And boy, can it pay off mightily.
Photo Credits: Spark Sports