In every draft there are players who are a huge risk. But if the pick hits, then a team gets an absolute superstar. The boom or bust pick is often a player which divides opinions between fan bases and analysts alike. This year, Oklahoma’s Trae Young certainly fits that mold.
Even if you haven’t watched a minute of college basketball all season, you almost certainly have heard about Trae Young. The guard was one of the best players in college basketball, leading OU to a 18-14 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to Rhode Island in the Round of 64, and averaging a team high 27.4 points per game on 42.2% shooting from the field.
It’s pretty cut and dry when it comes to analyzing the positive and negatives of Young’s games. He’s a fantastic scorer who can heat up quickly, and would certainly bring the offensive firepower to the point guard spot for the Chicago Bulls that they haven’t had in a while. But drafting Young does come with its fair share of potential problems down the line.
Let’s take a look at what he’s good at, what he needs to improve on, and how he could fit with the Bulls if they took a chance on him with the 7th pick in the draft.
Young can certainly score. Registering an offensive box plus/minus rating of 11.2, Young showed it all at Oklahoma offensively.
His ability to shoot from downtown was his strongest attribute, knocking them down at a rate of 36%. Many attempts came off the dribble, a highly coveted skill in today’s NBA.
According to his shot chart via The Stepien, Young shot 35.59% on shots which would be counted as 3’s in the NBA,. so he has the range.
(3:03- 3:10) On this possession Young takes the pick from his big man at the top of the three-point line and it takes out the guy who is guarding him. The defending big doesn’t react in time and looked to be anticipating a drive to Young’s left. But Young went right and it threw him off. The result of this was Young having miles of space to pull up and with not a defender in arms reach of contesting, he knocks it down with ease.
Having a guy who can suddenly pull up and knock down a shot in a defenders face or off the pick and roll is a valuable asset to have for any offense. It would certainly be for the Bulls, who don’t have any guys currently under contract who can do that. Not having a perimeter player who is a threat from three shrinks the floor and limits the space in which other guys like Lauri Markkanen can operate. Young could certainly open up things for Chicago. His three-point shooting would certainly force the second defender to step up, allowing lanes for Bulls players to cut or roll to the basket. It could also force defenders to help out off other three-point shooters like Markkanen and Denzel Valentine.
Another great quality about Young’s offensive game is his passing, and he averaged 8.7 assists per game for the Sooners. You could argue Young is also one of the best passers in the draft, and after seeing feeds like the one below, you can see why.
This is the pass I love from Trae Young. Important for him to be able to pick apart defenses without having to get a piece of the paint. Great pace and vision to hit that weakside corner. pic.twitter.com/iI6ywOk959— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) January 27, 2018
A lot of the times defenders would be so focused on Young that it would leave his teammates open for easy shots. Young’s mere presence on the floor was enough to activate a chain sequence against Alabama, which left one of his teammates wide open. The initial PNR by Young caused the weak side Bama defender to rotate down on help defense, causing an OU player to be wide open in the corner. Young spotted him and fired a bullet of a pass towards the corner. It was on the money and it resulted in an open three.
McGusty missed the jumper but this is an inSAAANE look from Trae Young pic.twitter.com/5mRCZ4owrm— Matt Spendley (@mattspendley) March 15, 2018
Young’s court awareness and vision is amazing and it’s super impressive when he does it when defenders doubling him and leave his teammates open across the court. Every time you have a guy who can score like Young also make his teammates better offensively, it’s a huge plus. Young would certainly be able to find guys like Markkanen or Bobby Portis for a three or easy layup.
It’s obvious Young has the tools to be an elite offensive player in the NBA. The jump shooting will cause big men to step up and his gravity off the ball will affect how teams play defense when he’s on the court. His vision will be of use in finding teammates after defenders collapse on him and his basketball IQ aids his playmaking abilities.
If there are big weaknesses when looking at Trae Young as a prospect, it’s his size and thus ability to play defense.
Young was measured a bit shy of 6’2” at the combine, which is very small for a point guard in the NBA these days. This will cause some obvious matchup problems for Young when guarding even backup guards. With a guy of his stature, he can easily get bumped off while trying to stick in front of guys. Opposing players will also take advantage of his lack of height to shoot over him easily, unless he’s right up in an opponent’s grill opening himself up to fouls.
Some guys can get away with helping off a man or not always paying attention thanks to their size by using their long arms to contest, but that’s not the case with Young at all. It’s clear Young needs to get a lot stronger as his small frame will make it hard for him to fight over screens let alone keep a defender in front of him on drives. But it won’t fit all of his defensive issues.
Along with his size on defense, there were times during Oklahoma’s games where it looked like Young would just completely give up on plays. He would either not rotate over correctly or would get completely get lost on switches. Young is already at a disadvantage defensively and the lack of effort on some plays doesn’t make things any better. If Young wants to play in this league for a long time he’s going to have to learn how to play better defense. Even if he’s just a normal or slightly below-average defender that’s fine, otherwise especially in crunch time opposing teams are going to try to isolate him and force him to defend in space. But it all starts with effort for Young. He’s obviously going to be short handed against most guards in the NBA but if he can make some of it up with effort and minimizing mistakes, he can be worth the risk.
Back to his offense, there are a couple problems there too. His shooting volume can hurt a team’s offense. Young has a tendency to take random pull-up jumpers from three, which aren’t in the flow at all. Wasting possessions with those types of shots will surely infuriate any coach. Young will have to learn when to try and catch the defense off guard and when he should pass it off for a better shot attempt. Being able to resist shooting whenever and wherever he chooses will be an adjustment for Young considering he had free reign to do whatever he wanted at Oklahoma.
Young also had problems finishing around the rim, shooting only 51.16% when he got there. The percentage ranked him in the 31st percentile (Stats also via the Stepien) among the players in his position group. For a guy who is so skilled, it was very surprising to see Young be so bad at scoring inside. It is certainly an issue he needs to fix as many teams will try and run him off the three-point line whether via the pick and roll or close downs. Part of this can also be chalked up again to him being kinda small for a guard, as big men can easily get up and either block or alter Young’s shot at the rim.
Young is going to need to bulk up to not only help himself defensively but offensively as well. He’s going to have to learn how to absorb contact and finish over defenders.
His fit with the Bulls
Young is certainly one of the more interesting prospects in this draft class and his potential fit with the Bulls is even more intriguing. At his size, Young can’t really play anywhere besides the point guard spot. The Bulls would get a lot better offensively with another floor spacer and having someone who can attract defenders towards them like Young can will certainly open up scoring opportunities for his teammates on the court.
He would also need to play alongside a guard who can help out Young by sometimes taking on the bigger point guards if need be. This is where Kris Dunn would come in. If the Bulls were to take Young, they would need to pair him with a guard like Dunn who can help out defensively and can guard 2’s, though this would spell the end of Dunn’s time as the designated “point guard of the future”. It would be kind of a 180 for the Bulls FO to select Young, especially after giving a vote of confidence in Dunn moving forward.
In all, it’s a very tricky situation if the Bulls decide to take a chance on Trae Young. With the 7th pick they will have their share of “safe” prospects to grab. Guys with not very high ceilings but pretty reasonable floors as well. Drafting Young would be a sign of the Bulls choosing best talent available over fit. Taking the risk of landing a possible superstar whose three-point shooting can alter games and help them ascend back into contention.
[Previously in this series: Mo Bamba]