A Warning For Those Cautious of Trae Young

A Warning For Those Cautious of Trae Young

Remember when it became fashionable to join the fun and bash something?

Star Wars was once really cool. Then an uninspired George Lucas and Disney’s insistence on milking that baby for every penny it’s worth made it into the rage-muse of many fans and internet video jocks.

Puma was as cool as Walt Frazier in a Billy Dee Williams costume, then it wasn’t cool thanks to Vince Carter’s feet. Now it is cool again.

Even this writer’s favorite band is the idol of many angry YouTube comments.

The mob mentality of piling on a brand, an idea or a person is contagious. Social media does the job of allowing the mob a voice. And then in some cases, people hear the voice and accept it as fact.

This seems to apply quite nicely to one Rayford Trae Young.

The former Oklahoma Sooner star burst into the basketball stratosphere with an array of passing, shooting and play that made college Steph Curry seem like foreshadowing. Young’s near-comedic range and Steve Nash-esque passing abilities brought eye-heart emojis to many a basketball fan.

Then as things seem to work out, it became en vogue to bash him.

Preface: Young is not perfect. The collapse of the Sooner’s 2017-18 basketball campaign will have his fingerprints on them. As the leader of the team, and by far their best player, Young’s inability to rise above the adversity and rally his team will be a stain on his Sooner legacy and raise legitimate concerns about his NBA future.

But Mr. Writer sir, aren’t you supposed to tell me why NBA GMs shouldn’t doubt Trae Young?

Why yes! Let’s get to that.

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist, or a MIT-educated Rocket’s GM, to understand that college basketball is not always the best area to grade talented prospects.

Future LeBron James extraordinaire Ben Simmons didn’t lead LSU to the NCAA Tournament:

“Simmons doesn’t care about winning! Character concerns. Not a number one pick in my book.”

Noted film star and basketball player by night Kyrie Irving played in eight games at Duke before an injury forced him to miss the majority of the season:

“Irving has health concerns! Toe injuries in basketball are concerning!”

Jahlil Okafor pre-draft was fraught with doom and dispair:

“Okafor’s lack of shooting and inability to stretch the floor shouldn’t excite an NBA team!”

…okay, maybe that one was correct, moving on!

The 2017-18 Sooner squad was not the best. Outside of Young, it was one the weaker squads Lon Kruger has had since he began his tenure in Norman in 2011-12. The lack of talent around Young, you know…one of the most gifted passers to play college basketball in a long time, played a large role in Young’s second half tailspin.

Just look at this video which is meant to highlight West Virginia’s defense of Young on inbound plays:

The video shows three things on accident:

  1. Young’s ability to pass out of great defense. Seven assists were were lost due to missed shots when Young found an open teammate off the press in a game Oklahoma lost by 13.
  2. Young’s aggressiveness — a trait for which he was criticized — will translate better in the NBA and not college ball where the officiating is…inconsistent.
  3. Wow, Jevon Carter has been at West Virginia since it was just known as western Virginia.

So okay. Young didn’t have a good team around him. Neither did Curry at Davidson. What about his reckless and immature play?

Young is an admitted fan of Steve Nash. While many have scoffed at that comparison due to the high turnover rate displayed in the second half of the season, the potential and desire is there. You’ve heard by now that Young is the first player in college basketball history to lead the nation in scoring and assists.

Surrounding Young with NBA talent will only benefit the young point guard. Knock down shooters, savvy slashers and pick-and-roll specialists will keep his eyes constantly forward. While many take the lazy route and classify Young as a volume shooter, a closer inspection of his game and those he models himself after reveal a player who is a more than willing passer.

Even franchises with little talent in the lottery will be a massive step up from the help Young experienced at Oklahoma outside a few examples.

Okay, I’ve got you now! He plays no defense and is too small!

Individual defense may be one of the more pointless characteristics to evaluate when you are discussing a lottery pick with a lottery team. For the uninitiated, lottery teams are not very good unless your GM is Danny Ainge and you went Rocky IV on Mikhail Prokhorov. Therefore, lottery teams will hardly mask a lottery pick’s lack of defense.

Steph Curry is not a great individual defender. James Harden does James Harden things on defense. Even the young Terry Rozier was exposed as a poor defender against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Why does this not matter much for these three talented players? Because they are on good teams.

Now Young will go to either Orlando, Cleveland or New York (I’m not looking forward to him getting drafted elsewhere and re-reading this a few weeks later). None of these teams — especially if LeBron bails — is a playoff team. Young’s defense will be a concern.

But it didn’t stop Curry and the Golden State Warriors from building on his strengths and developing a team around him to mask his defensive woes. The Rockets were undeterred by Harden’s matador defense and placed him around lengthy and talented defenders.

If Young is lucky, the team that drafts him will slowly build a winner so that he can achieve the illustrious tag of being a “good team defender.”

Okay, you’re still wrong but I’m done with this.

Yes there are legitimate concerns with Young as a prospect. But to pinpoint obvious faults that may have had more to do with his situation and not his skills as an individual basketball player is silly. It shows a desire to look so deeply into finding a flaw with his game that it screams, “Look at me and my different opinion!”

There is nothing wrong with having a different opinion. But when it concerns evaluating basketball talent to the point where you focus on a few traits, you start to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Trae Young is what the NBA has trended towards for the last decade. A synergetic guard with the ability to shoot from the parking lot which causes defenses to spread to thin — something a talented passer can exploit time and time again.

The game has also evolved into a situation which is more conducive to his strengths. Advantages for ball handlers and shooters and an up-tempo game all will benefit him.

If you subscribe to the “Young is too small/has high bust potential,” then so be it. You can join the list of franchises who chose what was considered safe at the time over the Curry’s or Donovan Mitchell’s of those drafts.

And no one wants to be David Kahn.





Brady has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2016. University of Oklahoma alum class of 2014. He has worked for the Franchise since April 2018. Co-Host of the OKC-82 Podcast. Member of the Basketball Insider's Show.

More in NBA

The Franchise NBA Awards!

Brady TranthamApril 15, 2019

John E. Hoover: Problem with NBA’s courtside jesters is actually an easy fix

John E. HooverMarch 12, 2019

Westbrook, fans should be held to higher standard

Matt RavisMarch 12, 2019

An unlikely MVP candidate

Andrew GilmanFebruary 12, 2019

The Stretch Four: Welcome to the soap opera

Matt RavisNovember 14, 2018

The Franchise