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Memphis Grizzlies 2018 NBA Draft prospect profiles: Trae Young

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A look into how the flamethrower from Oklahoma translates to the NBA and what he does best

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Trae Young is an incredible name. Because it isn’t “Tray” or “Trey”, but “Trae.” He’s built for success on that name alone. That’s all the scouting I needed to do before figuring out that he’s a good prospect.

If you don’t carry as much weight in Name Scouting as I do, he has actual basketball traits and skills to base an opinion on. He’s an actual point guard who played actual basketball at an actual school, the University of Oklahoma, for a year. After being one of the lesser-known five-star prospects a year ago, he burst onto the scene as the college basketball season started with dizzying numbers.

What a hot start it was. Young played 32 games last season. In the first 16 games, he averaged 30.1 ppg and 10.0 apg, with shooting splits of .458/.407/.832. Absolutely incredible production, with efficiency to boot. He garnered Naismith hype and rocketed towards the top of the draft board. However, his second half was not so impressive. That half of the season included 24.7 ppg and 7.4 apg on .386/.311/.899 splits.

Such a giant drop in efficiency caused a lot of worry and a lot of skepticism about Trae’s genuine ability, but college offenses are much easier to figure out, especially when there’s only one truly talented player on the roster. Defenses keyed in on Trae and forced the rest of his team to beat them. Young should get some blame for Bad Kobe numbers, but it wasn’t all his fault.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to look at the whole picture and not just concern yourself with the bad taste left in your mouth. Taking a step back and reviewing his entire game will give us all a better idea of what Trae Young can be in the NBA.

Strengths

-Shot-creation/Quick release

-Passing instincts

What immediately stands out about Trae Young is his ability to get off any shot from anywhere on the court. When he hits his shots, especially his threes off the dribble, it forces the defense to space out beyond their comfort zone and cover all areas of the court. That leaves plenty of open cutting lanes and the opportunity for the offense to flow more freely.

Watch the video above and notice how quickly he releases the ball on his shot. It’s a part of why his shot-creation skills are so advanced. He can catch defenses off guard and compensate for highly contested looks with such a quick release. Defenses play tighter in the NBA and Young looks well-equipped to handle that type of pressure. It’s how the lead the nation in scoring at 27.4 points a night.

His great shot-creation goes for interior shots as well. The spacing he provides by being a great shooter along with his terrific court vision allows him to take advantage of driving lanes, particularly in transition. He doesn’t play at 100% speed all the time either, which allows him to switch up his pace, get an ounce of separation, then blow by his defender for an easy layup or two free throws. His game against Oregon early in the year was a master class at doing this. He controlled the game like it was on a string and it showed anytime he drove as the defense would collapse to still no avail. Even if his jumper isn’t hitting, he should be able to create for himself inside or at least draw some contact. It’s these type of games that make me think Trae Young can be an electric player for years to come.

Scoring is fantastic, but Trae Young is in fact a point guard, which means his playmaking skills matter. And he’s good at that, as well. Besides a turnover problem (more on that later), he can make passes in transition and in the half-court quickly and without hesitation. Early in the season, he tied the D-1 record for assists in a game with 22, showing at the very least that he’s a willing passer, at the most showing he can run an offense single-handedly. He led the nation in assists per game (8.7) in addition to his scoring title. His offense is by far the most advanced out of every wing player not named Luka Doncic.

Weaknesses

-Lack of size

-Questionable defense

-Occasional poor decision-making

Trae Young measured to be 6’1.75” with a 6’3” wingspan. That already puts him at a disadvantage on the defensive end of the floor. He weighed in at 178 pounds at the combine, and that size coupled with his lack of strength means he can be physically bullied at the next level. Based off this alone, you can expect Young to struggle with battling through screens and keeping bigger/stronger guards from getting to the rim.

It’s hard for any college player to make the leap to the NBA and play good defense. But the few that have recently (Jaylen Brown, Ben Simmons, Justise Winslow, for example) have all been not just good athletes, but great athletes the second they walked into the league. Trae has some lateral quickness that will keep him from being embarrassed, but he needs to time to grow in strength and basketball IQ before he can be a solid defender at the next level.

Trae also struggled big time with turnovers throughout the entire season. Even in his “better half” of the season, he averaged 4.8 turnovers a game. That number (pause to almost puke, gather myself) skyrocketed to 5.7 turnovers a game (loses composure and vomits). He had free reign to make mistakes when he was the only player capable of offense at OU. He won’t be allowed to freelance as much in the NBA and that alone should cut back on turnovers, but he needs to let the game come to him and stop trying to force the issue at the first sign of distress.

If you can stomach it, here’s Trae Young committing 12 (TWELVE) turnovers against Kansas State.

A part of his poor decision-making also lies in shot selection. Especially later in the season when Trae was struggling from the field. When the going got tough, he would resort to hero-ball and silly shots that would even make Lance Stephenson blush. That’d be all well and good if, ya know, he made those shots. Since he didn’t, they were just ugly and detrimental. OU went 7-9 in games where Young shot 20 or more times. They went 11-5 in games when he was below that number.

Fit for Grizzlies

Anyone that can provide offense, especially from three, is a fit for the Grizzlies.

But more seriously, Trae Young would be a great piece in Memphis. With Mike Conley still on the team and under contract for three more years, Trae will have plenty of time and room to grow. If it turns out Trae grows too fast, that’s a good problem to have. And if he doesn’t show signs of being a contributor during his rookie deal, we can find a better fit for him elsewhere in a trade.

His defense really raises eyebrows, in the not-so-impressive way, either. Right now, he looks like he’ll be limited to only guarding point guards and undersized shooting guards. Luckily, the Grizzlies are currently stacked with young 2’s and 3’s whose defense would be considered their calling card (Wayne Selden Jr., Dillon Brooks).

The curiosity lies in whether or not the Grizzlies believe Trae Young should be picked with the fourth pick. The front office might like him as a prospect, but think that #4 is simply too high to select him. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that jazz, so arguing whether someone is worth the 6th-8th pick but NOT the fourth pick is semantics and kind of a waste of time.

Value be damned, Trae Young is a great prospect. His defense is a big question mark, but I want to see how he defends in a few years when he bulks up. He has a great basketball mind and if his body catches up he could be serviceable on the defensive end. Offensively, his scoring and passing abilities are perfect for the modern NBA, an NBA the Grizzlies so desperately wish to join.

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