Trae Young, last season’s most talked about player in college basketball, is also the most polarizing prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft. For every bit of praise he received during the season, he shouldered an equal amount of criticism. On one hand, Young dazzled the nation with his impeccable shooting and limitless range. On the other, Young’s decision-making and untimely inefficiency brought into question his ceiling at the next level. There were highs, and there were lows. Folks, it was ‘The Trae Young Show.’
Trae Young Season Synopsis
The five-star point guard out of Norman North quickly became a hometown hero after he chose the Oklahoma Sooners over some of college basketball’s heavy hitters like Kansas, Kentucky and Duke. When the season rolled around, Young and the Sooners hit the ground running, racing out to a 14-2 record on the season and rising as high as No. 4 in the AP Poll. By then, Trae Young was a household name, especially after he tied the NCAA record for the most assists in a game with 22 helpers against Northwestern State.
Dropping dimes at a record clip like Young did was no doubt a major talking point, but what really put the spotlight on Young was his scoring output. On the season, Young averaged 27.4 points per game, including nine games over 30 and four games over 40. Sure, Young’s ability to put the ball in the basket is scintillating, but he took it a step further (or more like a few steps further) by draining three pointers from Oklahoma City. Many of the shots he took were absurdly deep, and many times (particularly in the early going) those shots ended in a nylon splash.
Trae Young was dripping sauce— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 13, 2018
43 points (10 threes)
7 assists pic.twitter.com/dE6UoM32MR
While Trae Young was filling up the stat sheets, Oklahoma was raking in the wins and climbing the polls. So what happened?
Well, as is the case with any major change, it was a combination of factors. For starters, the Big 12 Conference is regarded as one of the toughest leagues in the country, if not the strongest from top to bottom, and that includes top notch coaches who know how to counter a player’s strengths and attack his weakness. After having a full scouting report on Young, it was just a matter of time before the competition figured him out, and the Sooners didn’t show much of a response.
That lack of response is the result of another reason Young (and subsequently Oklahoma) struggled in the second half of the season. The step-up in competition highlighted the Sooners’ glaring lack of depth and scoring help in particular, which led Young to average 35 minutes a game and produce nearly all of the offense on his own, whether that was by jacking up a ton of shots or haplessly attempting to get his teammates involved. Unfortunately, the others weren’t consistent enough down the stretch to help alleviate the load on Young’s back, and it showed in the 4-12 record to finish the back end of the season.
As it stands, Young wrapped up his one and only collegiate campaign as the nation’s leader in points and assists per game. The media frenzy surrounding the freshman phenom reached heights no one saw coming at the beginning of the season, but almost as quickly as it began, the Trae Young Show lost much of its luster as both he and the team limped to a first round exit in the NCAA Tournament.
I will enter the June NBA Draft!!— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) March 20, 2018
Trae Young has gone on record in saying how he’s modeled his game after NBA greats like Steve Nash and Steph Curry. He’s only 19 years old, but after watching every game of his college career as an Oklahoma Sooner, it’s apparent to me that he’s put in the work to study up on Nash and Curry’s respective styles. In turn, Young has adapted many of their qualities into his game and developed them into his strengths. So what exactly are the strongest aspects of Trae Young’s game?
- Shooting range at the next level won’t be a problem for Trae Young, who has proven he can hit beyond the NBA three-point line with regularity.
- Dribble moves to create separation. Young displayed his ability to create space between he and his defender time and time again throughout the season, and his advanced handles help him do that.
- Finding the open man when facing double-teams. Young routinely faced double-teams, especially in conference play, but his awareness of where his teammates were on the court, plus his above average court vision, allowed him to find open shooters.
- Creating his own shot off the dribble and without a screen to set him up. With Young’s high-usage rate, it was crucial for him to be able to make a play for himself by himself if the offense around him broke down in the half-court.
- Pick-and-roll experience and comfortability. If there was one part of the Oklahoma offense that worked more consistently than all the others, it was probably the pick-and-roll. Young was able to work in tandem with guys like Khadeem Lattin, Jamuni McNeace and Brady Manek, and with the pick-and-roll being such a staple in the NBA, it’s significant that Young is both experienced and comfortable with it.
For all that Trae Young brings to the table in regards to his offensive prowess, there’s also a lot to be desired on the opposite end of the court. Some of that can be attributed to his slight stature, and some of that is from an effort standpoint. In any case, Young, like all prospects, isn’t perfect, but for some projecting him at the next level, his weaknesses are enough to give them pause. As I see it, Young’s weaknesses include:
- Young’s physically small frame. At 6’2” and 178 pounds, it’s no surprise why analysts who have evaluated Trae Young see him having some difficulty adjusting to the NBA, a league with far more physical defenders and physically imposing bodies than what he was used to seeing in college. It’s worth noting Young has reportedly gained over 11 pounds since the end of the season, but only time will tell if it’s enough to help him make the professional transition.
- Lack of effort with on-ball defense. Often times opposing guards were able to bully Young all the way into the paint without much resistance. How much of that was Young saving himself for the offensive end? That much can’t be known, but it’s still something that Young will have to continue improving upon.
- Shot selection. With the good comes the bad, and for Trae Young that manifested itself beyond the three-point line. At Oklahoma, Young had the greenest of green lights, but too often, Young fell in love with the razzle-dazzle of deep three-pointers, even when they weren’t falling.
- Turnovers. Trae Young not only led the NCAA in points and assists, he also led the nation with 5.2 turnovers per game. Now, as is the case with just about any statistic, Young can’t take all the credit or blame for every turnover, but there were some definite moments of poor-decision making on Young’s part, especially in crucial moments of games that directly led to easy baskets for the opponent. Young will definitely need to shore up this part of game or else he shouldn’t expect to have sustained success in the NBA.
- Attacking the rim. Because Young’s style is to play below the rim, he relies on finesse and body placement to make plays at the basket. With him being so small compared to other guards who routinely attack the rim, this makes it extra difficult for Young to be as effective in the paint. If Young wants to be known as more than just an outside jump-shooter, he’ll need to improve on his ability to finish at the basket.
By now, you should have a pretty solid idea of what kind of player Trae Young is, but for a more in-depth breakdown of his game, I highly recommend checking out NBA Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz’s take on the dynamic point Oklahoma point guard.
For more scouting reports, here are some of what others are saying about Trae Young going into the draft:
- Crimson & Cream Machine’s Jack Shields discussed Trae Young’s pro potential with Hawks.com. In his assessment, Jack addressed Young’s strengths, areas he needs to improve on, and any NBA comparisons among other questions.
- Kyle Boone from CBS Sports cited below-average strength and a low release point as reasons why Trae Young could have trouble adjusting to the NBA, but also says Young’s “ball-handling and play-making ability make him a plug-and-play point guard for a franchise to build around.”
- The folks over at NBA Draft Room gave an overview on Trae Young, describing him as “a true point guard with a deft shooting touch and an uncanny feel for the game.” They also discussed his pros and cons, stating that “Young doesn’t have ideal size or athleticism but he’s a gifted play-maker and pure shooter with unlimited range on his jumper.”
- Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer spoke with several NBA scouts about their impressions of Trae Young following the conclusion of the regular season, and while none were overly expectant about Young’s potential in the NBA, most believed he would benefit from having more talent around him than what he had to make due with at Oklahoma.
- Tim Daniels from Bleacher Report acknowledged Young’s strengths and weaknesses, stating “his ability to create open looks for himself and others ensures he’ll find a role in the NBA, but how much improvement he can make defensively will decide exactly how good of a pro he’ll become.”
At this point, it’s widely expected that Trae Young will be among the 14 lottery picks, but projections of where he’ll end up vary depending on who you ask or where you look. Personally, I don’t see Trae Young falling outside the top ten, but check out what these guys who are more qualified than I am think about Young’s draft outlook:
- SB Nation’s Tom Ziller projects Trae Young to go to the Memphis Grizzlies at the No. 4 spot, which is one of the higher projections you’ll find out there.
- Sean Deveney from Sporting News thinks the Chicago Bulls and their slot at No. 7 could be a likely landing spot for Trae Young.
- CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish also sees Young getting the call from Chicago, and in turn being the first point guard taken in the 2018 NBA Draft.
- Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley projects Young to find a home in Cleveland, who has the No. 8 overall pick. The Cavaliers are a team in need of a point guard for the future, so perhaps it would make sense for the ‘Land to select Young.
- The guys at USA Today also paired up Trae Young and the Cleveland Cavaliers together. It would certainly be interesting for Oklahoma fans to watch both Baker Mayfield and Trae Young play in Cleveland this fall.
- First of all, ‘Trae’ is Young’s middle name. His full name is Rayford Trae Young. His father’s name is also Rayford Young, which leads me to my next fun fact.
- Trae Young was born in Lubbock, Texas, which is where his father played his college ball. After a stint of playing professionally in Europe, Rayford Young and his family moved to Norman, where they ultimately settled down.
- Drake and Trae Young are homies. Yup, that Drake. Stay tuned, you might see Young in a ‘Drizzy’ music video at some point down the road.
- Trae Young was a member of the championship winning Team USA in the FIBA Americas Under-18 Tournament. Other notable members of the team included Mohamed Bamba, Markelle Fultz and Michael Porter Jr.
- Young’s favorite food is chicken fingers, and his favorite place to get them is Raising Cane’s, a restaurant chain known for their chicken fingers. Unfortunately for Young, there are only seven NBA cities that have a Cane’s, so he’ll either have to do without his favorite chicken fingers for a while or hope he gets picked up by one of the select few cities that has one.
- Young suffers from ornithophobia, an abnormal or irrational fear of birds.
Quite simply, this kid has talent for days. Offensively, he can do things on the court well beyond his years. Yes, he still needs to show a lot of improvement on defense, but taking into consideration that he’s still years away from even entering his prime, his ceiling remains high. No matter where he ends up on Thursday night’s NBA Draft, he’ll be fulfilling a lifelong dream, and you better believe he’ll have a lot of fun doing it.
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