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Staff round-table discussion on James Young's status with the Boston Celtics

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DNP - Bust

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Hot take alert: I'm done with James Young. I'm done with the age excuse. I'm done with giving him time to develop. I'm done because in two years he's done.... nothing. He's a shooter that can't shoot. A defensive liability at all times. He's a D-League All-Star that can't make the jump. The team needed him to step up with Jae Crowder out, and he stepped back.

I don't dislike the kid or wish him any ill will, and if he turns things around and becomes a decent NBA player, I'll happily eat my words. But I wouldn't blink if he were traded or cut in the offseason. You roll the dice when you make draft selections, and this one came up empty. Time to move on.

I invited the staff to convince me otherwise. Here's the discussion that followed.


Tim MacLean

Starting to agree. I gave him the benefit of the doubt last year because he wasn't even 20 yet. But he hasn't shown any signs of development at the NBA level. Brad's given him a couple of chances over the past few weeks in either garbage time or meaningful minutes, and he hasn't made any plays that make me think, "Ok I see what a little bit of a sign here."

Like you said, if he becomes serviceable then more power to him. But right now I wouldn't exactly be devastated if the Celtics parted ways with him in the near future.


Wes Howard

Couldn't agree more, although I don't really like the idea that youth should be as big a factor in determining a prospect's value as it is right now.

The question on my mind is this - would any other team want him? With the way he's played, would he help or hinder a deal getting done?


Sean Penney

There was a lot of excitement when the Celtics drafted Young two years ago, with some claiming he was a steal at the 17th overall pick.That excitement has now faded, as it's clear at this point that the pick hasn't panned out. Young's best asset was supposed to be his sweet shooting stroke, but he shot poorly from three point range as a rookie and has somehow regressed to a horrendous 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. He's completely lost on the defensive end, which is a liability the Celtics can't afford if he's not making up for it by being the lights out shooter we hoped he would be.

Perhaps moving to a team with low expectations that can afford to give him extended minutes and let him hoist up shots will eventually lead to him finding himself, but it's not going to happen here in Boston.

Jake Keaney

Young definitely hasn't shown any evidence of improving as a shooter since last season, which, as Sean noted, was supposed to be his calling card. While playing fewer minutes this year compared to last year (332 total minutes in '14-'15 vs. 193 total minutes in '15-'16), his three-point and two-point shooting percentage have both regressed, resulting in a decrease in true shooting percentage to 38.4% from 45.7%.

However, I would note that at 20 years old, Young remains, well, younger than Jordan Mickey (21), R.J. Hunter (22), and Terry Rozier (22). Additionally, FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO NBA player projections have Young tagged as a better prospect than the three Celtics rookies based on projected Wins Above Replacement, albeit with extremely wide margins of error.

That said, Young hasn't done too much this season to instill a ton of confidence in me that he'll be able to crack the Celtics' rotation for the rest of this season and into the next. If an off-season or early-next-season trade not involving Young reduces the Cs' depth at the guard positions, maybe he'll see more meaningful playing time in the fall. Otherwise, we might be seeing the last of him in a Celtics uniform.

Wes Howard

In response to the idea that youth is a direct correlation with potential production, I would like to cite an example with which we are all familiar - Amir Johnson. He came into the NBA as a very young player, right out of high school. He's still 28 years old, but his body has started to break down because of the minutes he has played over his career. We're even starting to see a little bit of the same thing with Lebron. I would argue that minutes, rather than age, are the defining factor in a player's longevity, when combined with size, play-style, health habit, etc.

By the way, that is not meant as an indictment against Johnson in any way - I love the guy, and he's certainly come on strong in the past few games. It is simply an observation about the status of his health, and his ability to play extended minutes.

Bill Sy

Here's my thing about James Young: forget his draft position and his age. Disregard the scouting reports, the analytics, and the handful of minutes that he's played over the last two seasons. The simple fact of the matter is that James Young doesn't play. In his rookie season, he was behind a bunch of players in the depth chart and this season, he's in the same predicament with Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, and Jonas Jerebko. You could argue that by now, he should have shown something by now to earn Brad Stevens' trust and some playing time, but realistically, come on. He's a kid.

On a really bad team with a young roster (like the Sixers), he'd consistently get 20-25 minutes a night for an entire season. That's what Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk have played over the last two years; neither player has been the picture of consistency, but we've seen flashes and that's why we're a little forgiving with their lack of production every night. Until Young gets a real chance, it's unfair to pass any judgement on him.

You have to remember that Young was drafted to be a scorer. That's probably the most difficult role to grow into. Defense (think Smart, Bradley, and to some extent, Jordan Mickey) transfers over from college. Adjusting to the speed and size of the pro game and knowing where your shots come from against NBA defenses takes years (and playing time) to develop.


Bobby Manning

James Young is the kind of player you'd love to see or hear about in terms of their off-the-court effort. Does he put in maximum effort? Is he involved and focused in learning the system and playing the game right? Why isn't he in the rotation in year two?

I don't buy into the notion that there isn't room for him on the team. When you look at where he succeeded in college, it's still an area the Celtics could use some help in: wing scoring and shooting. He's supposed to be a playmaker, but in spots where the team gives him a chance he seems uninvolved and hesitant. I wonder if it could even be an attitude issue. He was a front man at Kentucky, and playing for Maine probably wasn't what he envisioned when he thought about what his role would be in the NBA.

The Cs have made clear that minutes are earned and not given. They've taken Tyler Zeller's starting role away, pulled the plug on David Lee quickly to start this season, elevated Isaiah Thomas to a starting role and brought Marcus Smart back to the bench when they felt it was right for the team. If Young could help the Cs and was showing it behind the scenes, I'd suspect he'd be given the opportunities he deserves. A year ago I'd give him the benefit of the doubt as a rookie, but now in almost a second full season of irrelevancy it has become hard for me to do so. Maybe this just isn't a good fit for him. I just don't know why he doesn't look to shoot, pass, or attack when he gets on the court for the Celtics. You'd think that's what a young player would be striving for when they finally get a chance.

Bill Sy

I agree that he looks hesitant on the floor, but there are few rookies that just take over games. Consider the circumstances. He knows that his playing time is going to be limited. Be too aggressive and he might come off as trying too hard. Be too passive and people question your heart. If he were getting 20+ minutes a night and not producing, I'd agree. Behind the scenes, Ainge and Stevens have been very complimentary of his development and work ethic. The same goes for Tyler Zeller and to a lesser extent, David Lee. Sometimes, it's just about fit and I don't see who Young plays ahead of.

Jeff Clark

Wrapping this up, it is always difficult to make a final definitive judgement with a young player who isn't playing. You get this chicken or the egg conversation: are they not playing because they aren't good enough, or are they not good enough because they don't play? Oftentimes it is a mix of both, but to me, after two seasons, regardless of age, it seems like he should at least be showing signs of life when he does get a chance, and I haven't seen it. I can't see how hard he works in the background, but I feel like we've heard whispers of work ethic issues in the past, and it makes me wonder if that's just who he is.

Regardless, I've been disappointed in his development, and I'm no longer putting any hope in him to contribute to this team, except in the way of trade filler this offseason. Again, I've been known to be wrong, and there's still a chance he could work out somehow. There's really little impact to the team at this point in the season and it will get sorted out in the summer. It just frustrates me that a guy we used a 1st-rounder on couldn't step up and help when the team needed his skill set.

(Note: I didn't use the term "bust" in the conversation with my staff, but despite the harshness of the term, I think it exemplifies what we're talking about here - so I used it in the title and poll below.)