I posted this in part for two reasons: First reason was that ESPN put up an article on him whether or not he was superstar or bust (which ESPN pretty much decided he is the former-more on that). The second reason the local radio show talked about him and how the Atlanta Hawks should take Trae Young at 3.
And one of the local personalities put on his Twitter site a vote saying should the Hawks draft Trae Young at #3? 72% said no.
So, why? As talented as Trae Young is, why are a lot of people going sour on him and fast?
To me, Trae Young was the most polarizing player in college basketball last year, well over Duke’s Grayson Allen. It is interesting given how Allen has been labeled as a dirty player/spoiled brat by many with his actions over the years at Duke while you never saw anything parallel to Young at Oklahoma. But what made fans turn really sour was the overexposure by notably ESPN of Young from the minute the college basketball season started until Oklahoma was bounced in their first game of the tournament. It was like anytime you saw a game, the announcers calling it were spending 5-10 minutes on Trae Young (even if the game was between Duke and North Carolina) and then if Oklahoma was playing a game on ESPN, there would be a box above the “bottom line” tracking Young’s stats the whole time (memo to ESPN, if they really wanted to see what Young was doing, they’d turn over to that game). If Young had a big night but Oklahoma lost, it made the top story and pretty much ignored the fact the Sooners lost. ESPN had already pretty much called him the next Steph Curry (and still has).
With the overkill of the media coverage on Young, the “smart” fans who have been very critical of ESPN over the years for their coverage of players, teams, etc. soured on Young to the point where he became a bad guy. He was the poster boy for ESPN, therefore made fans have dislike for him, though it wasn’t HIS fault. And when he had a bad game, fans rejoiced and pretty much pointed at ESPN via social media and other places saying “ha! told you so!” (It was the similar thing we saw the year before with Lonzo Ball at UCLA but more people probably wanted him to fail more because of LaVar)
So now Young, after one year with the Sooners, is making the jump to the NBA. And people are taking sides of what will he be, the next great thing or the next great bust? To me, it is unfair to throw that onto a 19-year old. My personal take is and has been that he needed to stay one more year in college to polish some parts of his game because I can see him being a great player in the NBA for years to come. And yes, I can see him being a bust too.
So here are the pros and cons to Trae Young in my eyes.
HE CAN SHOOT: No questions on this one. Young can shoot anywhere from inside the arc to a little behind the arc. Don’t leave him open for anything. He will bury it.
HE HAS EXCELLENT COURT VISION: Of all the things about Trae Young I liked, I REALLY liked how he saw the court in games. To me it is the most underrated aspect of all his strengths. I saw games where he just made passes that not many NBA players could see or make. And he was passing the ball and seeing the court, Oklahoma was the most exciting team in college basketball. He could net 13-14 assists per game in the NBA with a solid roster around him and he doesn’t necessarily need to be a 25 point per game player with it.
HE NEVER LOSES HIS COOL: When conference play kicked in, Young was very much ridiculed on the road such as Kansas and Texas Tech (where they were especially rough on him). Yes, he didn’t play well in those games but he also never snapped and pulled a Grayson Allen either. For a 19-year old that is pretty good.
HE WON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH FULL-COURT PRESSES IN THE NBA: One knock was how teams started to adjust and press Young the whole way thus really limiting what he did as the season continued. He won’t have that in the NBA where they press him as much which means he can set things up, see the court and do what is necessary. Adding on, defenses in college are far different than in the NBA so he may be just fine.
WHOEVER DRAFTS HIM WILL HAVE AT LEAST A FEW GAMES ON ESPN: Let’s face it: ESPN LOVES this kid. Anywhere he goes, ESPN will try to put on national TV, whether it is the Hawks, Magic, Grizzlies, etc. He is their boy, just like Lonzo Ball was a year ago. More national recognition will mean more of a lot of things: spike in home attendance, spike in revenue for jersey sales, etc.
SHOT SELECTION CAN BE A MASSIVE ISSUE: Young is a good shooter, but sometimes he gets it in his head that he can shoot anywhere on the court. There were more than a few games where he was near the half court line shooting the ball with a defender in his face and missing by a wide margin, wasting a possession for Oklahoma. Or if he’s pretty much covered up, he will force a shot thinking he has to take that shot. He has to be smarter with his shot choice in the NBA.
DEFENSE IS UNDERWHELMING: Young had been beaten by a lot of point guards last year on the other end especially when conference play began and teams made adjustments on Young. He was often found giving up 20 points to opposing point guards in the Big 12. Granted it is the Big 12 and one of the top conferences in the nation, but dealing with the likes of Westbrook, Irving, Paul, and Curry are a far different animal. He isn’t as aggressive on the defensive end and that is a major problem. Size has been attributed to his issues on defense, but I’m tired of hearing that. Chris Paul is a solid defender and has been, but he’s only 6 foot, an inch smaller than Young. Some have said Young doesn’t have the muscle tone. I don’t know about that, but he’s got to be more physical and aggressive on the defensive end (which he wasn’t at Oklahoma) regardless or else point guards will have big games every night on Young.
HE IS TURNOVER PRONE: As crazy as this sounds, I don’t take Young’s turnover rate too high as we see Westbrook have it. With Westbrook and then Young in college, they were major focal points to the offense so I do expect it to be higher than the normal rate. However, and I don’t think it is all of Young’s fault here is I think how he sees the passing lanes, they are far more advanced than a regular point guard, especially in college. If he’s with the right team with talented players on it, those turnover rates could drop.
DRIVEN FOR AN MVP OR A RING? Young has said he wants to lead the NBA in points and assists. Great. But here is what I will say: what separates the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry from the likes of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and a few others is the drive to win at any cost. I felt like the divide between Westbrook and Durant in Oklahoma City was in part because Westbrook wanted to “get his” share in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Warriors after Durant had terrorized Golden State in the first 4 games. After Durant left, Westbrook “got his” with Oklahoma City, being the stat guy and MVP. However, two straight years of failing to get out of the first round. For Anthony, it always has felt that he is willing to win, but only if the team revolves around him, even now despite his prime being well past him. Now the big comparison that Young is getting is to Steph Curry. I don’t ever remember a comment made like that from Curry. And I don’t think Curry cares one bit if he leads the league in points and/or assists. He is a team player on a team who has won 3 of the last 4 NBA championships because they do play a TEAM GAME.
HE IS STILL YOUNG: 19 years old we are talking here. And this isn’t necessarily a “con” but I think with having the national media like ESPN, CBS, and FOX practically proclaiming you as the next “chosen one” in the NBA, you cannot help but to get an ego. I think Young’s ego got a little out of hand. But I also think he got gut-punched by social media as many ripped this kid over and over to the point where now he wants to show his “haters” that he can play at a top level. I think the best thing he needs to do is tune ALL of it out, but it is a challenge for somebody his age. It’s a challenge for even most veterans in the NBA. So to me, he really doesn’t need to listen too much on the media, good or bad.
MY OBSTRUCTED TAKE: I don’t see Young being a Steph Curry. At all. That isn’t to say he will be a poor NBA player or a bust. However, I think that Young will have to hit a major learning experience on how to play in the NBA and how to run point guard in the NBA. My concern is he is already thinking he will have to take the league by storm and try to overdo everything. It is why I think he struggled at Oklahoma in the 2nd half of the season. He has to stay within himself and his skills to be that star he hopes and not try to be somebody else. And honestly I can see that. But the biggest thing about Trae Young is going to be this: if he learns on how to play point in the NBA similar to Chris Paul, then a team will be very fortunate to draft him.
WHERE DOES HE GO? It sounds like the Hawks may be the one team that seems very high on Young (given GM Travis Schlenk’s prior job of being in Golden State and drafting Curry), but not too high enough at the #3 spot. Could Atlanta trade down with a team like Dallas where they are interested in Luka Doncic and then the Hawks pick up Young at #5? It’s all hearsay at this point. If the Hawks don’t get him, one mock by Sports Illustrated had Young to the Cavaliers, regardless of if they have LeBron next year. Another place he could end up is New York, where he could be a nice duo with Kristaps Porzingis. But time will tell come Thursday night.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat