In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s installment examines Oklahoma point guard Trae Young.
I can’t recall a prospect in recent memory that has been such a subject of division between talent evaluators. If you haven’t heard Trae Young’s name by now, you’ve most likely been living under a rock for the past year. The subject of heaps of praise or tons of hate is going to go high in this year’s draft regardless of how you may feel about him, with many mocks and rumblings projecting strong ties between the Oklahoma guard and the Atlanta Hawks.
At 6’2 and weighing in at 180 lbs (at his heaviest), Young isn’t the biggest guy on the court or the most imposing, but he can become the most polarizing player on the court at any time. Known for his high-level passing ability and willingness to pull up from three at any location inside the gym, Young has created quite the reputation for himself before even playing a game.
The 19-year-old has much going for him in the way of offense with his defense being somewhat of a silent concern to teams as we approach the draft. Nevertheless, Young has defined strengths and weaknesses just like any other prospect, so let’s take a deeper look at some of those.
Obviously, the immediate draw to Young and the reason for becoming one of the most hyped prospects in this draft is because of his three point prowess and overall offensive upside. Jokingly when Mike Scott was a Hawk, there was a saying on social media every time he took a shot where everyone would tweet or what have you, “Mike Scott will shoot.”
Trae Young is the living embodiment of that statement, because this man has never seen a shot he didn’t like. Young doesn’t only take some absurd shots, but he actually makes a good percentage of them. In fact, Young shot 36 percent from three at Oklahoma last season... on 10 attempts per game(!), which is flat out astonishing.
Young is one of the most polished offensive guys you’ll find out there. His second biggest draw in the draft will be his vision. In Young’s freshman season for the Sooners, he nearly posted 9 assists per game to help boost his already ridiculous offensive rating up to 114.7. Young has a knack for running the break to perfection and isn’t afraid to make the gutsy pass. This also keeps defenders honest on coming out of their shoes trying to defend his three point shot since he’s easily able to make the extra pass out of a double or hard close out.
This offensive ability led him to average 27.4 points per game on a 59 percent true shooting percentage. Young doesn’t foul much either and you can really see how good his shot is at the free throw line where he is close to automatic. There aren’t many, if any, holes in Trae Young’s offensive game.
Young does have just one glaring weakness on offense and it is a pretty big one with his turnovers and carelessness with the ball. While you may still be in awe of Young’s nearly 9 assists per game, let’s take a step back and also look at the fact that he averaged over 5 turnovers a game and, as a point guard, that has to be improved.
Young also doesn’t measure well with his barely 6’2 frame and 6’3 wingspan. He is quick on both sides of the ball which can help him be passable at the next level but teams have to be wary of his size or lack thereof.
As you might’ve already guessed this lack of size does not do him any favors on defense where, last season at Oklahoma, he played little-to-none. Of course, it isn’t always smart to take a ton of stock in guy’s defense at the collegiate level, especially a player of Young’s caliber who can’t afford to be off the court with foul trouble. With that said, there are significant physical limitations that will greatly limit his upside on the defensive end and, putting it kindly, he will have to provide more effort and resistance defensively in order to approach passable production.
Overall, Young is a good prospect but there is always going to be a constant conflict between people who love the offense (and, particularly, upside) against people who want to see a more well-rounded guy with less risk. He is almost certainly going in the top 10 and is a candidate to go in the top 5.
The Hawks are a definite option here, as I would imagine Schlenk sees Steph Curry all over again and, with anyone involved in that Golden State draft, it would be hard to pass up a similar design of a player. Still, the buzz surrounding Atlanta’s interest shouldn’t be taken as gospel at this stage and that is important to note.
In short, it will be really interesting to see how Young adjusts at the NBA level.