Going into this season, there were countless big-name prospects that were favored to go number one. Marvin Bagley III. Luka Doncic. Michael Porter Jr. DeAndre Ayton. Now, there might be a new favorite, a prospect who rose out of nowhere to take the NCAA by storm. He is Oklahoma point guard Trae Young. But is he worth all the hype?
Young is one of the more gifted scorers at the college level, but his weakest aspect as a scorer comes at the rim. That’s not to say it’s all bad though, as he shows solid potential as a finisher.
Starting from the basics for a point guard, Young has the ball-handling capabilities to get past his defender and to the rim, leading to some incredible highlights.
He also has a wide variety of floaters and runners to keep the defense honest and attack the weaknesses a defense gives him.
However, Young is only shooting 55.8% at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com. Compared to other elite PG prospects of the past couple of years, that ranks at the bottom.
|Player||FG%||FG% at rim|
The reason for the low percentage comes from a desire to do too much. There are times when he is committed to taking a shot regardless of the defense, and that leads to well defended attempts.
All of this can be improved by just making better decisions, and some of the prospects listed above have shot much better or much worse since entering the league, so there’s more than enough potential here for that number to change. The silver lining to all of this is that Young draws an amazing number of fouls. He averages 9.3 free throws per game and makes 85.6% of them. Anyone who gets to the line that often clearly isn’t afraid of contact, which should mean that scoring at the rim won’t be a huge problem for him.
Young is one of the best mid-range shooters in all of college basketball. According to Hoop-Math.com, he’s shooting 52.2% on mid-range jumpers. And, much more impressively, he’s assisted on none of those shots, meaning every mid-range jumper he’s made is off of pure shot creation like in the clip below.
If you’ve ever watched Trae Young play, what I say next should not come as a surprise: Young is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen in college or the NBA. He can shoot off that catch and off to bounce and he can shoot from seemingly anywhere. Just watch some of these threes:
This shot is going to make him a deadly and valuable player in the NBA regardless of how the rest of the game shakes out.
This is where I want to spend the most time talking about Trae’s game. As a point guard, creating shots for both himself and others is the most important thing. I’m going to start with shot creation first.
As you can see above, Young excels as a personal shot creator from all three levels. He’s great at drawing contact inside and exploiting mismatches into the slightest inch of daylight to pull up for a jumper. As a pick and role player, the most common form of offense in the modern NBA, he has the potential to be a special player. He just begs defenders to drop under a screen, and when they do, he makes them pay with his jumper.
However, this also creates some problems. His willingness to shoot when the defense goes under limits both his passing opportunities and other scoring chances. He’s quick enough to beat defenders to the spot when they go under, so using more screen to attack the rim would be easier shots in most scenarios.
He’s shooting way too far away from the basket in the first play and it’s too early in the shot clock to be looking for that. Does he have the range to make those? Of course. That doesn’t make it the smart or right play. The third play in this clip is the most worrying. If Young waits for the play to develop, the role man is wide open for an easy lay-up. Instead, he takes a jumper from forever away with 17 seconds left on the shot clock. These kind of plays must be cleaned up.
As a passer, Young has tremendous talent. He leads the NCAA in assists with 10.7 per game, and that’s not a fluke. He sees the floor well and has an innate knowledge of where and when shooters will be open, particularly before the defense even has a chance to get set.
As a pick and roll passer, Young flashes the potential that may make him the number one pick. He’s such a threat as a scorer that when he goes around screens, the defense will follow him. This will open up the roll man and gives Young great passing options.
Yet, there are other times when he misses the correct read because he’s hunting for his own shot, like in the clips below.
In the first clip, Young draws the defense into the paint and has the role man wide open, diving to the basket. Instead, he takes a very contested shot instead of making the easy pass. While the second clip is not PnR, it’s an issue that’s connected to those types of reads. The defense collapses on him, and instead of kicking out to the open man in the corner, he takes a contested shot and gets blocked. These issues are more mentality based rather than ability based, so they can be cleaned up, but it is a weakness right now.
Point guard defense is slightly less important than big man defense, so as long Young is passible and his offense outweighs the points he gives up, he’ll be a valuable player. And that’s exactly how I would describe his defense: passible. The clip below is the good aspects of Young’s defense, illustrating his quick feet and instincts around the ball.
The second clip is illustrative of his weaknesses: ball watching and seemingly indifferent attitude.
Young has a solid basketball IQ, evident from his nation-leading assists totals, and he has the mentality you want in all great players: I want the ball in my hands with the game on the line. There are a few negatives in this section, though. When he’s working off-ball, he can get a little lost, which will hurt his ability to play with other ball-dominant guards immediately. He can also get caught trying to do too much and not making the simple play; he’s been trapped in the backcourt a couple of times during close games because he tries to dribble through double teams instead of passing out.
Trae Young certainly has the potential to be an excellent player. He’s a gifted scorer and shooter with great passing instincts. If he cleans up some of the mental issues in his pick and roll play and learns to finish a little better around the rim, it isn’t a stretch to think he’ll become the best player in the class. For now, he’s a top ten talent bordering on the top five. Let’s see where he ranks by the end of the year.