Every once in a while, I catch myself thinking about Keith Bogans. I remember when Dr. Jack Ramsey voted for him as Defensive Player of the Year to the complete bafflement of the basketball Internet. I remember how even the local newspapers were shamelessly ripping on him as the Bulls got off to a blazing start in 2011. I remember when he and D. Rose threw a ladies night party at the club. But mostly, I remember how when Bogans scored six points, the Bulls almost never lost.
It's a stat that will forever be its own kind of championship ring: no matter what happens the rest of Bogans' life, no one can ever take it away from him. It's still so funny. Bogans started all 82 in 2010-11, playing almost 18 minutes per night. All the Bulls needed from their starting shooting guard back then was six points and they were completely invincible. We were all so much younger then.
The shooting guard spot has been the Bulls' personal boogeyman ever since. The next offseason, the Bulls tried to upgrade at the two over Bogans, and they made a mistake they're still paying for. The Bulls could have had Jamal Crawford for the exact same money they paid Richard Hamilton. Hamilton would go on to play two star-crossed and oft-injured seasons in Chicago, while Crawford won Sixth Man of the Year for the Clippers following a brief stint in Portland. It's low-key one of the biggest blunders this franchise has made since hiring Tom Thibodeau.
With two picks in the first round of the 2014 draft, it stands to reason that the Bulls may finally try to sure up the shooting guard spot. Jimmy Butler looks like more of a small forward at this point, lacking the ideal shot creation, ball handling and shooting you're looking for next to Derrick Rose. The jury is very much still out on Tony Snell, but I think we would all be happy if he settles at being a quality rotation piece. Be it at No. 16 or No. 19, the Bulls have to get someone they can hope to play long-term next to Rose.
Fortunately for the Bulls, there are several intriguing candidates on the wing in this draft. The first one we'll look at is Kentucky's James Young.
James Young has always been pegged as a future basketball star. Out of high school, he was a McDonald's All-American and the No. 8 rated player in the country in 2013, according to ESPN. He chose to attend Kentucky as part of what some were calling the greatest incoming recruiting class of all-time. Kentucky's delusions of a 40-0 season ended in its third game, but you can still buy a t-shirt.
Young's career with the Wildcats got off to an ominous beginning when this happened, but he would eventually settle in to start all but one of Kentucky's 40 games. Like the rest of his team, Young's season was a bit uneven until he finally found his footing in the NCAA Tournament.
Young scored 20 or more points nine times last season. That's only two fewer than Andrew Wiggins. Mostly, he chucked a ton of threes. Young came to Lexington with a reputation as a great shooter, but the numbers didn't really support it. He took 5.8 threes per game, mostly off catch-and-shoots, and made 34.9 percent of them. His quick release, pretty stroke and young age brings to mind Bradley Beal's lone season at Florida. Everyone knew Beal was a terrific shooter, but he only made 33.9 percent of his threes as a freshman.
Age is important here. Young doesn't turn 19 until August, which means he'll be the third youngest player in the NBA next year. Age is a double-edged sword: younger players are coveted more than older players in the draft, but it didn't work out so well for the Bulls with Marquis Teague, the last time they selected a teenager in the first round.
What's encouraging about Young is that he got better as the season went on. He was great in the NCAA Tournament as Kentucky went on an unlikely run to the championship game as a No. 8 seed. He scored 13 (including 3-of-5 from three-point range) and added eight rebounds in the second round against Wichita State. In the Elite 8 against Michigan, he made 5-of-7 shots to finish with 13 points again. He dropped 17 against Wisconsin and 20 in the national title game against UConn, where he did a great job of getting into the teeth of the defense to draw fouls (8-of-9 from the foul line). He also did this against the Huskies:
I can watch that all day, and maybe I will.
From a scouting perspective, Young's main positives are his shooting stroke, his age and his size. He's 6'7, 213 pounds with a wingspan that measured at 7-feet at the draft combine. Length is important and James Young is very long.
He also has good athleticism with a 35.5-inch vertical at the combine, but he wasn't as explosive at Kentucky as most thought he would be. He's not on the same level as players like Wiggins and Aaron Gordon, though who is? He'll still be average-to-above average athletically in the NBA.
I hate to keep bringing up Wiggins, but Young's biggest flaw right now might also be the one thing holding Wiggins back: he has very little shake to his game. Don't let that monster slam against UConn fool you. Most of the time, Young is putting his head down, going left and running straight into defenders. His right hand is pretty weak at the moment, and it contributes to a lack of great ball handling ability.
Those straight line drives are not going to work in the NBA when help defenders are crashing down on him. Young does have a floater but it isn't anything special yet. More than anything, he needs to attend the Jamal Crawford School for Crossing Idiots Over. The ability Crawford has to throw a defender off-balance to either get to the rim or get loose for a mid-range jumper is something a lot of young guards need to figure out. James Young is still 18 years old, so he has time.
SBNation Draft Profiles
SBNation Draft Profiles
Another area Young will need to improve is his passing and floor vision. He had 67 assists in 40 games this year, more than Wiggins or Jabari Parker, but still not great. He cannot be a ball stopper in the NBA because he isn't a good enough scorer to get away with it. Few people are. He'll have to learn to move the ball.
The other obvious thing Young needs to work on is his defense. His ball-watching was criminal at times last season, and his man defense would get lazy. With a 7-foot wingspan and good athleticism, there's no reason for him to be a poor defender. As long as he's coachable, a little Thibs Dust should go a long on that end.
The Bulls need a two guard, and James Young is a two-guard. It is definitely fair to wonder if he fits the Bulls' timeline, though. Joakim Noah turns 30 this season and there should still be some concern over his previous foot injuries. The rest of the Bulls' squad is essentially in its prime. Do they really have time to wait for Young to develop?
As a long term play, I like the idea of drafting Young. He needs to get better with the ball in his hands, but the tools are there. I can envision him coming off the same baseline curl sets the Bulls used to run for Hamilton and Kyle Korver. His quick release and pure stroke means he should be very good in those. Putting the ball on the floor and eliminating mental mistakes defensively would be what might hold him back from getting real playing time under Tom Thibodeau as a rook. Well, that and the fact that Thibodeau never plays rookies.
If the Bulls stick at No. 16 and No. 19, a draft of Adreian Payne and Young would be really nice. I will take that all day. There's a good chance Young doesn't even make it No. 16, though, as he'll be in play starting around No. 13 with the Timberwolves.
Ultimately, James Young may simply be too raw for the Bulls at this point in time. If you're patient with him, though, he could one day turn into a solid starter.