The Celtics drafted James Young 17th overall in the 2014 NBA draft. He had spent a single season at Kentucky, and had helped lead them through the NCAA tournament, all the way to the final game. He was projected to be a talented offensive swingman, and a potential back-up and eventual replacement for Jeff Green. Originally, Young was expected to become the starting swingman that we presently need.
He had a silky smooth stroke, he wasn't afraid of the big moment, and he had the size and the athleticism needed to play at the highest level. The future looked almost as bright for Young as it did for the Celtics's first pick, Marcus Smart.
When his name was first announced in Brooklyn, the reaction was very positive.
Unfortunately, since coming to Boston, Young has not proven to the coaching staff that he deserves to be a large part of the rotation. He received very little playing time, only appearing in 31 games throughout the season. When he did get minutes, he didn't deliver in the ways that he was projected to.
Although he was billed as an offensively-skilled player, Young only shot 35.3% from the field on the year. It's true that almost two thirds of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and that will lower the shooting percentages of almost any player. However, his three-point percentage was just as bad; he only connected on 25.8% of his threes. His shooting form is still quite good, so a larger sample size would likely improve those numbers. However, for a player who will likely rely on the long ball to make his mark at the NBA level, not hitting shots is a real problem.
His defense was worse. He was consistently unable to stick with his man, and missed many rotations. The less-glamorous side of the ball appeared to be the reason that he was never able to find consistent minutes on the roster.
When playing small forward, Young posted a PER of 5.9, and allowed a PER of 16.6. His net rating during the season was a -8. Those numbers are discouraging, but they don't tell the whole story.
More than anything else, Young appeared lost, on both offense and defense. He appeared to have trouble adjusted to the complex sets and increased speed of the NBA game, and saw his production fall as a result. He is still very young, celebrating his 20th birthday this August, and his lack of experience could well have been the root of many of his weaknesses. This theory is supported by one very compelling fact; he was absolutely dominant in the D-League.
Over the course of his 17-game D-League career, James Young averaged 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.5 steals over the span of about 33 minutes per game. He shot 46.3% from the field and 44.2% from deep, and sported a net rating of +5. If those performances are any indication, he could be an offensive force in the league, and could supply the 3-point shooting that the Celtics need to make their pace and space offense work. He has already shown that he has the ability to make highlight-reel plays.
Boston drafted Young for a reason, and even though he didn't show much in his games with the Celtics, he spent his time in Maine showing us that those reasons were good. There has been discussion (among bloggers and fans, not necessarily among the organization) that James Young might be a trade chip used to move up in this draft in order to bring in a more polished player. It is clear that he is highly regarded, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.
"Look, Boston still doesn't know what it has in James Young," a general manager told Bulpett. "But what we do know is that if Young went back to school for another year, we'd be talking about him as a top-10 pick in this draft."
Regardless of whether he sticks in Beantown or is shipped out of Boston, he is a potentially dangerous player, who seems poised for a breakout season in his sophomore campaign.
With a full year and an extra summer getting familiar with Boston's schemes, Young might finally be able to put his skills to good use on the court. The young gunner will look to capitalize on any chance he is given this season to prove that he can make a positive difference for this young Celtics team.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com and 82games.com