This draft class is one of the best I have seen. Any prospect in the top 8 would be just fine with me due to the deep and diverse talent available. But there is one guy in particular who comes off to me as a generational talent, and that is Trae Young.
Young took the NCAA by storm to start the NCAA season, getting the Oklahoma Sooners off to a hot start from day one. However, the young freshman could not do it all. A lack of talent around him caused the team to fizzle, though they did technically make the NCAA tournament. But somehow, this has seemed to really hurt Trae Young’s draft stock, and it still puzzles me as to why.
Young was by far the best player in the NCAA and could go down as one of the most dominant freshmen ever. He averaged 27.4 PPG and 8.7 APG. What really impressed me, in particular, is his assist totals. Everyone wants to talk about Young as a scorer, but despite playing along abysmal talent, he set up his teammates for success. He even tied the NCAA record for most assists in a game with twenty-two. This guy makes every other player on the floor better.
Could you imagine him running pick and roll with John Collins in a few years? With his high assist totals come turnovers at times, but at 19 years old, Young still has a lot to learn and despite being the youngest and smallest on the court, he was head and shoulders above the competition. This is also largely in part to his ridiculously high usage rate last season of 37.1%. To put that in perspective, only three other high-major freshmen guards have had a usage rate over 30%. Two of them were DeAngelo Russell and Markelle Fultz.
Obviously, Trae is known for his scoring, though, and rightfully so. It is rare to see a freshman put up these types of numbers, and what is really impressive is how he handled being game planned for down the stretch. Even when double or triple teamed, Young produced. He ended up leading the nation in scoring as a freshman. On a balanced NBA team, you can not gameplan like that for Trae. He also just has unlimited range, which will be the part of his game that likely translates to the NBA the most.
Young is regularly compared to Steph Curry, but he actually outperformed him as a freshman in a much harder conference. Like Curry, Young is going to have to make that transition from boy to man. I am not too worried about Young being a dynamic scorer, however, he will have to at least bulk up to hold his own in the NBA on the defensive side of the ball. Some guys aren’t physical freaks but just have it. Look at a guy like Steve Nash. Young has made me a believer, but it definitely would not hurt to put on another 15-20 pounds of quality muscle. His biggest weakness does seem addressable though, as Lloyd Pierce is known as a defensive-minded coach who could certainly teach him a thing or two.
When it is all said and done, Trae Young is the best scorer and passer in this draft. He is also a freshman with unlimited potential. So why is he not being hyped up as much as he should be? If the Hawks can pick up an additional first rounder or some other nice assets and move back a couple picks, it could be what is best for them in the long-term. The Hawks may stay at 3, and it looks like Marvin Bagley is their guy. But this is an avenue worth looking into, especially with all the Dennis Schroder rumors swirling.
Trae Young could be the high usage superstar the Hawks have been trying to acquire for two decades.