James Young has the potential to be a great scorer in the NBA, but Boston Celtics fans must temper their expectations for his rookie season. Young is simply too underdeveloped to make a significant impact at this point of his career.
"We need to be more patient with James, especially out of the gate," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, as reported by The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. "But we hope for fast progress from James."
At just 19-years-old, Young will probably spend most of his year in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws. There he will be given heavy playing time, which will allow him the opportunity to adjust to the pro-style and improve on all facets of his game.
When it comes to Young, it's all about upside. He was the third-youngest player in the draft and most certainly one of the rawest of all first round draft picks. It's more important to look to the future when assessing Young, not so much what will or won't happen in Boston this season.
Embedded below is my full scouting report of James Young from my 2014 NBA Draft Guide, but you can read some of my more in-depth thoughts as you keep scrolling.
James Young will spend most of his early career hovering around the three-point line as a spot-up shooter, since the rest of his game is underdeveloped. As the No. 11 ranked RSCI high school player in 2013, Young was lauded for his marksmanship from outside, but he struggled at Kentucky, hitting only 34.9 percent of his 235 attempts.
Young has a very smooth jump shot and he is capable of catching fire from outside. However, he has some mechanical issues that could be the cause of his inconsistencies. He doesn't always dip the ball and he has an awkward one-foot landing, both of which may contribute to his frequent front-rim misses. But this is only an observation, since he has always been a great shooter going back to high school, and he ended the year on a tear, hitting 41.7 percent of his threes during tournament play.
College teams sparingly use off-ball screens to spring open shooters, but in Young's limited chances I was impressed with his ability to use head fakes to free himself from defenders. Like a wide receiver may lean his hips one way to direct a cornerback away from the intended direction, Young showed a natural skill in doing the same to create space for himself. He hugs close to screens and does the little things that you don't often see from teenagers. For Young, who isn't an advanced ball-handler, this is an important tool that he must continue to develop.
Young clearly has an aptitude for shooting the basketball and he doesn't appear to be afraid of the moment, but he will need to find consistency. Truly, becoming a consistent shooter is the key if he wants to buy himself more minutes with the Celtics during his rookie season.
This is probably the area where Young needs the most work offensively. Even though his "I'll get you a bucket" personality has its positives, since he could someday be relied on to be a sparkplug scorer, at the moment he tends to force the issue and take low quality shots. Whether it's a floater or a fadeaway, he needs to get all the way to the rim more often.
But that's only part of the issue. Young is an average ball-handler, as he is limited to mostly straight-line drives, and his right hand is non-existent. Even though left-handed players sometimes have the benefit of being defended the same way as a right-handed player (since teams/players don't change the way they defend them), he will still need to get his off-hand to at least a competent level. He rarely uses it create with the dribble, and he almost never uses it on lay-up attempts.
Fortunately, Young's size puts him at a distance advantage if he plays the two-guard throughout his career. Since 2000, the average drafted shooting guard measures in at just under 6-foot-4 with an 80-inch wingspan, according to Draft Express. Young has a 6-foot-7 frame with an 84-inch wingspan.
Even though Young has a long way to go as a creator, he projects as an efficient scorer if he continues to shape his body, get stronger, and develop some dribble moves. There is a chance that he becomes a match-up nightmare for opponents who have smaller, average-sized two-guards.
I'll admit, I was baffled when Danny Ainge said that James Young played "very good defense" in college. Young, as far as I'm concerned, was a terrible defender. At Kentucky he displayed poor footwork, off-ball awareness, and what appeared to be a lackadaisical attitude.
However, it is possible that Young was simply a chameleon and blended into the culture at Kentucky, which was a poor defensive unit whenever Willie Cauley-Stein was on the bench. There is no denying that Young has the tools to be a good defender, but it will be a long time before he gets there.
After Ainge praised Young I missed the rest of his statement because I was too busy picking my jaw up off of the floor, but he's right about this: "...and he had to guard the different perimeter positions throughout his college freshman year. He's very young."
That's for sure, and as I look into my crystal ball I can see why the Celtics like that about Young. He has good size, so he could potentially defend two positions, and he has a body that can support a lot more muscle. If he's able to improve his technique, maybe he could add the versatility to defend a third position.
But I'll be honest when I say that I'm still skeptical of Young's defensive upside. He looked so disinterested in defending last year, which was the total opposite of his tough-as-bones offensive personality. Who knows, maybe coach John Calipari just wanted his go-to guys to take it easy on defense so they could focus all of their energy on scoring.
Despite my qualms with his man-to-man and off-ball defense, Young is still a terrific rebounder for his position. Even though it doesn't show up in the stats-sheet (he averaged four defensive rebounds per 40 pace adjusted), I contribute that to the fact that stud rebounders surrounded him on the floor.
Young consistently displayed the willingness to attack the boards, and his combination of size and strength allowed him to come down with them at a high rate for his position. If Young applies this same mentality to his defense, then maybe he'll pan out to be a pretty good defensive player.