At CelticsHub this year we will be focusing on a potentially fluid list of the top 5 prospects and track their progress throughout the season. Since the Celtics will only select in this year’s lottery if the Los Angeles Lakers fall between the 2nd and 5th pick, it doesn’t make sense for Cs fans to get familiar with more than a handful of top prospects. In the weeks leading up to the college basketball season we will be introducing some of the names you should start to get to know and the number one reason why you should get excited about them. Next up: Trae Young
Oklahoma~Point Guard~6’2″ 185 lbs (6’2″ wingspan)
Draft Range: Top 5
Ceiling Comp Group: Steve Nash, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry
60 Words or Less: I am tempted to write “fun” 60 times but that would be lazy. Trae Young averaging 30/10 as a freshman in the Big 12, 3 miles from the house he grew up in, is simply incredible. When Mark Jackson said Steph Curry is going to ruin basketball FOR THE KIDS, Trae Young was somewhere in Norman working to make the “cool story bro” meme come to life.
#1 Reason To Get Excited About Trae Young: Trade Bait
It was only a matter of time until Trae Young appeared in our lives. I don’t think anyone knew it would actually be Trae Young or it would happen in 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma, but the evolutionary children of Steve Nash, Stephen Curry and the modern NBA point guard were going to start arriving on college campuses eventually.
We have seen flashes of this lineage in prospects over the past few years (Ball, Fultz, Russell) but nothing like what Young has displayed over recent months. He has the usage rate of Russell Westbrook and plays with the efficiency of Chris Paul, all while making it look like prime Steve Nash. He’s averaging 30/10 on a top 10 team, in a power conference, shooting 46/39/85 and snatching 4 rebounds and two steals for good measure. The Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball and although his shooting percentages and turnovers are going in the wrong directions in league play, he’s still managing to impose his will despite his slight frame and average athleticism.
Before we break down his game a bit, it’s important to note that it’s unlikely that the Celtics actually draft Trae Young with the intention of him wearing green and white (and sometimes black or gray) in 2018-19. Point guard is a flush position in the NBA and even if Young is a truly special one, adding a ball-dominate point guard doesn’t make since for Boston if Kyrie Irving is going to be a fixture in both the short and long-term plans. Brad Stevens prefers to play one primary ball-handler at a time and using a top-5 pick to draft an overqualified backup seems unlikely.
HOWEVA, trading Trae Young, or the draft slot to take him, is Danny Ainge’s jam. As of early January many of the teams drafting in the top half of lottery (Atlanta, Memphis, Sacramento, Dallas, Charlotte and somewhat Chicago) are not really in the market for a point guard, but of course that could change. The Orlando Magic is the one team that would be a prime target for a trade scenario. They have lots of interesting pieces to go along with their own top pick to climb up and get the point guard they desperately need.
Although I’d rather take a top lottery pick, there could be a trade available with a non-lottery team who can offer good young veterans and is looking to lock up their point guard of the future. One thing for sure is that we know Danny & Co. will work to get the best value no matter what the situation is. Until then, let’s ogle at some highlights!
This Isn’t Your Grandpa’s Set Shot!
Trae Young appears to be the first high-profile prospect that has been able to capture the full power of the pop-a-shot Steph Curry shooting motion. Twenty years ago a “set shot” was a dirty word in basketball, especially for guards. No one was teaching a low, chest-level release and even the notion that a below-the-rim, slight guard could change the league with that type of shot would get you laughed out of the room. We had to see it to believe it and now that we’ve seen it, it has changed the thinking behind player development.
The knock against a set shot was that you wouldn’t be able to get it off against a good defense or size. It’s too low and slow. The reality is that with a lower release point you’re actually able to get the ball to your shooting pocket sooner and get into your motion in a quick, compact window. Because a set shot doesn’t take as much strength and athleticism as a jump shot, you’re able to shoot it with more range.
Instead of shooting over the top of a defender at 24 feet, you can back up to 26 feet and still shoot with accuracy. If anything, the lower release is more accurate because the less moving parts a shot has, the less that can go wrong. A set shot also makes it easier to shoot off the dribble. Again, the less time and distance between your release point and the top of your bounce makes for a quicker, more accurate shot. In this case, seeing really is believing.
(Trae Young’s inner dialogue in gif form. Shout out to FrankieVision.com for video)
“You look big, how about a jumper in your face?”
“Hey, nice switch! Here’s a jumper!”
“Hmmm, you don’t seem to be far enough out. Jumper!”
“You seem much bigger than me. Buuuut, your hands are down. Jumper!”
“Whoa! You’re a really good defender, I need to back up! Jumper”
As the old saying goes, nothing makes you quicker than shooting and Trae Young’s prolific shot making allows to him get where he wants on the court. He drives to score with a developing set of finishing moves…
…and find teammates who are VERY open.
Trae Young also has the passing vision that everyone loved in Lonzo Ball’s game last year. Both in the open court…
…and in the half court. Look at that lefty pass!
I typically don’t pick nits in these previews, but I do feel some responsibility to throw some cold water on the collective heads of the Trae Young fanboys. Young is small and he isn’t a great athlete and I think NBA teams are going to force him to finish at the rim. He will need to rely on floaters, runners and crafty finishes at the next level and I don’t think he will generate the same free throw rate he is in the Big 12.
He has finishes that are very pedestrian and give you pause about his potential as anything more than a 3-point bomber in the NBA.
He’s often more effective pulling up just inside the foul line, which is a tough way to make a living.
He get’s a very generous whistle and has the respect of the Big 12 officials already. Here are some examples of calls that won’t translate. They are mostly block calls that are a combination of poor officiating and trickery from Young.
Don’t get me wrong, he gets fouled plenty and there are certainly calls that are missed both ways. It’s just something to look our for when the analytics models start to tell how great he is at getting to the line.
Trae Young is super fun and an awesome college basketball player. In my opinion, the draft boards that have him on the top 3 are getting caught up in the excitement. Trae Young may be great or he could be a change-of-pace backup. Either way I can’t see him going over the top-flight wings and versatile bigs on the board when the league is flush with point guards. It’s good ol’ supply vs. demand, but then again it only takes one team to create demand and if Danny Ainge has the chance to take advantage, he will.