Let’s talk about Trae Young
In this 2018 NBA draft, there are a lot of interesting prospects with many different skill sets and accomplishments. Luka Doncic is exhibiting himself as the best European prospect in history winning the EuroLeague championship, Euroleague MVP, and the Final Four MVP. Mohamed Bamba has posted the longest wingspan in the history of the NBA combine. Combined with being second in the NCAA Division 1 in blocked shots per game and very solid mobility, he has the potential to be a dominant force at the NBA level. Uber-athletic double-double machines Marvin Bagley and Deandre Ayton cannot be overlooked as both have athleticism that is rare in players 6’11 and taller. The mystery surrounding Michael Porter Jr.with his back injury and how much that will affect him is interesting as well. He was an absolutely dominant force at the high school level. He led his team in high school to a perfect 29-0 record resulting in them winning the Washington Class 3A State Championship. Porter Jr averaged a monster 36.2 ppg and 13.6 rebounds a game. He was the number 1 player in the 2017 ESPN 100 class before Marvin Bagley reclassified. Jaren Jackson Jr. showed amazing potential in his limited minutes and touches at Michigan State. He established himself as a dominant shot blocker at the college level, and that skill looks very translatable to the NBA. He averaged 3 blocks in only 21.8 minutes of play, so his per-36-minute block rate is an absurd 4.95 blocks per 36 minutes. Combine that with a very solid 39% 3 point percentage in college, and he has the tools to be a great offensive and defensive frontcourt player. Even with all the amazing potential of all the players in this draft, my favorite prospect in this draft is Trae Young and I am going to explain why that is.
Trae Young has displayed masterful passing skills at Oklahoma combined with excellent court vision. On a subpar Oklahoma team that went 11-20 the year before, Trae Young joined the team. With no other creators on the team, Trae Young was under a lot of pressure to create for other teammates, set them up and put them in the best position to succeed while creating for himself. Trae Young averaged 8.7 assists to lead the nation in assists at points of the season with his assist total being higher than 9 per game. His turnover rate of 5.2 per a game jumps out and can cause concern. Turnovers are something that Trae has to work on at the next level. But if we compare it to other guards in this draft, his turnover rate is not as alarming as it seems. Using College Basketball Reference, I compared Trae Young’s assist to turnover ratio to other top point guards. Collin Sexton averages 3.6 assists to 2.8 turnovers per a game which indicates that he has an assist to turnover ratio of 1.286 compared to Trae Young’s ratio of 1.673. Even John Wall, a guard known notoriously for his passing skills posted a slightly lower assist to turnover ratio of 1.625, with far superior talent surrounding him. DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Patrick Patterson were all part of the 2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcat’s team. All of them NBA players currently. Anybody on the Sooners basketball team that Trae Young played on would be lucky to be in the G league.
Trae Young, like Stephen Curry today in the NBA and in college, is far better at shooting than at getting the basketball into the bucket. Trae Young averaged 27.4 ppg and 8.7 apg – the only person in NCAA history to lead in ppg and assists per game. He had arguably the greatest season for a freshman point guard in NCAA history and one of the great individual seasons in NCAA history. He shot a true shooting percentage of .593 which is a very big feat when you see that he was double teamed 43.7 % of his touches past half court. The next highest player is Stephen Curry at 31.4 % of his touches, which puts Trae Young up with some of the biggest scoring threats in NCAA history, which is an amazing feat, considering he was just a couple of months removed from high school with what we consider subpar teammates in the PAC 12, with many of Trae Young shot’s coming off the dribble. In comparison, Collin Sexton shot a true shooting percentage of.576 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shot a true shooting percentage of .586 with lower usage rates and being double teamed less. One very underrated part of Trae Young game is his ability to get to the free-throw line. He averaged 8.56 attempts a game shooting a very high 86.1%, meaning he makes 7.4 free throws a game. He has very underrated quickness and very good ball handling skills, so he is able to get into the lane and the paint at an effective rate. Trae has, at his disposal, a deceptive hesitation dribble that can keep his defenders on his toes. One big thing for Trae to work on is that he needs to finish at the rim at a higher percentage. He also has very few midrange attempts in college. The NBA is moving away from midrange shots, but at certain points that could be problematic. For his age, he does have a very impressive floater that he can hit from all corners of the basketball court.
Trae Young is known as a knockdown shooter winning the McDonald’s All American 2017 3 point contest. He established himself as a top level shooter in the ESPN 100 class. He has the ability to knock down shots the moment he crosses half court, which is the main reason he was double teamed at such a high rate in college. He finished the season shooting 36% from 3 making 3.7 out of 10.3 attempts per game. He was shooting in the low 40% at the beginning of the year but as defenses started to really double team him and the degree of difficulty of 3 pointers attempted started to rise, he really lowered his percentages. Overall, he is a very underrated catch-and-shoot player. On his 58 catch and shoot 3 pointers in college, he averaged an absurd 1.4 ppp, which is about 46% on catch and shoot. On off-the-dribble 3 pointers he was in the low 30% range. His three-point percentage would be much better overall if he had teammates that could run or create an offense which would allow Trae Young to have more catch and shoot opportunities. Players with really good free throw percentages tend to overall turn out to be very good shooters in the NBA. Consistent free-throw shooting usually indicates better and more consistent form and he shot .861 from the line. I believe Trae Young will be able to benefit a lot from the increased spacing that is in the NBA. If he is double teamed in the NBA there are players with the talent level to make the opposing team pay for double-teaming Trae. This would help Trae in catch and shoot scoring and overall efficiency. One major reason Trae Young’s shot will work in the NBA is that he has a very quick one shot motion like Curry which makes his shot much harder to judge and contest, unlike someone like Jimmer Fredette who has a much slower two shot motion which does not go well for unathletic players at the NBA level.
This is the area of the floor overall where Trae Young will struggle the most. With his wingspan of 6’3 and his height of 6’1.7 about 180 lbs, he does not have the tools to be an elite one on one defender or an elite defender in general. I will not sugar coat it at Oklahoma overall Trae Young was a bad defender. Improving on his defense should be the area where Trae Young should focus on the most. One of the main reasons he was a bad defender is because he was put under a lot of pressure to create offense for the Oklahoma Sooners noticeable by his 37% usage rating his one year at the program. I believe that Trae Young’s offensive output will outweigh him being a defensive liability.
In conclusion, I think in a way Trae Young is becoming underrated in this draft. Even though he is undersized at 6’1.7 in shoes and has a 6’3 wingspan at 176 lb, in comparison, Stephen Curry measured 6’3.5 with a 6’3 wingspan and weighed 183 lb at the combine. He has a very good handle, he is excellent off the dribble, along with his shooting skills and off-ball movement in college with the most important part being Trae’s very fast release. Also, his passing traits are great which I think are just as important as his shooting at the next level. Even though comparing him to Stephen Curry is very bold, seeing what he has displayed, it is very hard not to compare him to Stephen Curry. Trae was just about as good as Curry in his junior year at Davidson as a freshman, even showing better passing skills than Stephen Curry in college. Trae certainly has his flaws but he has an offensive skill set that many players will never have no matter how hard they try. In a league more about spacing than ever, I believe Trae Young can shoot with the best of them. I also believe many people may miss out on Trae Young taking a positional need instead of someone that has the potential to be a once in a generation shooter.