The curious case of Trae Young's NBA Draft stock and why he's a lottery lock
Why Oklahoma freshman Trae Young's game can -- and likely will -- translate to the NBA
Oklahoma point guard Trae Young has dominated college basketball headlines through nearly two months of action. The freshman from Norman, Oklahoma, has risen from a relative unknown nationally -- he was just the 30th overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to 247Sports -- to the main attraction in the sport, and an early front-runner to win the Wooden Award.
Young is as electric a player the sport has seen in quite some time, and his ability to light up the scoreboard from anywhere inside 35 feet has garnered apt comparisons to Golden State Warriors sharpshooter and former Davidson great Stephen Curry.
But questions about his game and how it may translate to the NBA have loomed throughout his meteoric rise. With a 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame, Young's diminutive size will undeniably have skeptics questioning just how durable and translatable his skills might be to the pros.
Which is ludicrous, really, because despite his smaller frame, he leads the NCAA in scoring and assists -- something no player has ever done. But unless he hits a growth spurt between now and the time he enters the NBA Draft, which is looking more and more likely to be 2018, those questions will continue to loom.
So if you're a draft junkie, a scout or just a fan of college basketball, sit back, relax and soak in why I believe Young's a top-10 lock -- and why sleeping on him as an NBA prospect would be ill-advised.
Height won't be a deterrent
The biggest knock on Young is, without question, his size -- or lack thereof.
Young's not the tallest point guard around by any stretch of the imagination. But he's not exactly the shortest, either. In fact, he's nearly on par with the average height of the starting NBA point guard, which is just a tick over his 6-2 frame.
So when was the last time a 6-2 point guard was drafted in the lottery, you ask? You have to hop in the wayback machine and take a ride alllllll the way back to ... last year, when Dennis Smith Jr. went No. 9 overall to the Dallas Mavericks. He, too, was considered an elite playmaker in college. So don't let the narrative fool you: His height won't be a deterrent when the NBA comes calling. Mainly because of this ...
Creating space for Young is first nature
Forty-yard dash times are completely irrelevant in college hoops, but Young's probably got a quick one that would explain his game and give context to why it's so difficult to guard him. He has above-average agility and quickness in a phone booth, so to speak, that has allowed him to thrive at every level he's played at.
He's quick, shifty and has a unique ability of carving out space and separating from defenders just enough to get his shot off. Ideal size or not, Young really doesn't need it simply because he can shoot it virtually anywhere on the floor in Oklahoma's offense.
No, no, seriously. Anywhere. Young has a permanent green light.
Furthermore, he can contort, twist and warp his body any which way in and around tight spaces in the paint. Need a layup off the wrong foot? No problem. Want him to be able to finish around the rim while drawing contact? Check and check. Space creation is one of the hallmarks of his game.
Shooting's at a premium in the NBA, and Young's got the goods
In a world where every NBA team is on a quest for the next Stephen Curry, Young's not-so-quietly put up better numbers even at the height of Curry's powers in college. Wait, what?
- 2017-18 Trae Young: 29.6 PPG, 10.7 APG, 41.3 3-point percentage
- 2008-09 Stephen Curry: 28.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 38.7 3-point percentage
That is ... ridiculous. Curry was putting up those numbers at a non-power program. Young's putting those numbers up against arguably more stout competition. Look, Young's not been through the Big 12 gauntlet yet. But OU's played a tough non-league schedule and Young's done well thus far in league play, and early indications are that he's not slowing down anytime soon.
He's an elite playmaker
Young's more than just a shooter. He leads the NCAA in assists with 10.7 per game, too, and has an uncanny ability to see the entire floor.
Earlier this season, he set a single-game assists record with 22 against Northwestern State. In that game alone, Young accounted for 50 of OU's 68 first-half points as the Sooners would go on to explode for 105 on the evening. His vision's otherworldly.
Young has full control of OU's offense as a freshman, too, which is pretty rare, and his feel and pulse for the game is that of a fifth-year senior. He's essentially a pro in a college offense making reads before they're readable.
"I'm a big Steve Nash fan because he was a smaller point guard -- wasn't the most athletic, could really shoot, very cerebral,"in a feature by our own Matt Norlander recently. "A lot of his intangibles really fit my game, like his touch."
Young is only 19 years old
Curry bypassed his senior season to test the NBA waters and was drafted in the lottery despite questions about his diminutive frame. Yet Young, as mentioned previously, has been better in almost every statistical category and continues to do it against more daunting competition.
If you're an NBA scout, you've got to be drooling about the prospect of potentially adding a more productive version of Curry who could enter the league at age 19. He's been stellar and dominant at the college level, and yet he's still super young with plenty of room to grow.
What NBA team wouldn't be enticed -- heck, enamored -- by a 19-year-old with this type of talent?
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