After spending the past couple of weeks shuttling back and forth between Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts, Celtics rookie James Young finally got another chance to play with the big boys on Monday, his first NBA action since Dec. 5.
Young was sensational in Boston’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 13 points – nine of which came from behind the arc - in just a little over 17 minutes of play.
While he didn’t exactly stuff the stat sheet, the Kentucky product further proved that he has the potential to someday be that microwave scorer every good team needs.
On top of the coming out party he threw for himself, Young has been consistently lighting it up for the Celtics’ NBA D-League team, the Maine Red Claws.
In eight appearances up north, Young has averaged 22.4 points per game and his 47.9 percent success rate from downtown currently ranks ninth in the D-League’s statistical hierarchy. Even more telling is the Red Claws’ 7-1 record with Young in the lineup.
"I think that he’s really getting better," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg on Saturday. "I think just continuing to string those [good] days together – every time we go 5-on-5, if it’s for five possessions or 20 minutes, those are huge critical moments for him. And he’s taking advantage of it, especially in the last week."
Young certainly took advantage of the opportunity that Stevens afforded him last night and it’s clear that, at just 19-years old, he has the ability to help the Celtics right now.
"He does add something that we could very well need in the near future," Stevens explained, via Forsberg. "And that is the ability to play off some screens and score and make passes off screens. He’s a very fluid offensive player."
Unfortunately for Young, basketball is a two-way game, especially for younger players. In order to crack professional rotations it’s imperative for these guys to be able to hold their own defensively and, so far, Young has shown that he could still use some polish on that end.
Forsberg highlighted Young’s need for improvement on the defensive end with the help of a small-sample size of analytics.
According to Synergy Sports data, which has dissected five of Young's eight D-League appearances, he's allowing 1.065 points per play, which ranks in merely the 12th percentile among all league players. Opponents are shooting a modest 43.2 percent against him in those games, but he's been hurt by 3-point shooting.
Having a head coach that’s as into analytics as Stevens is doesn’t help Young’s case and, at the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not Stevens can trust Young while he’s out on the floor. But after the performance he put on against Charlotte, sparking a sizable comeback, Young may have forced Stevens’ hand a little bit.
It makes plenty of sense for Young to continue suiting up for the Red Claws as he gains more experience and adds strength to his frame. But with the Celtics currently sitting at 11-21 through its first 32 games of the season it might be time to give Young some more run with the parent club.
The trade of Rajon Rondo all but solidified Boston’s desire to develop rather than hunt for a playoff berth. By that logic, the Celtics can afford to play Young, let him learn from his mistakes, and grow as an all-around player as he experiences the NBA game more and more.
The time is now for Young and the Celtics.