Trae Young confident in his elite abilities, aware of his detractors: 'My job is to change the narrative'

Trae Young confident in his elite abilities, aware of his detractors: 'My job is to change the narrative'

There isn't a more polarizing NBA Draft prospect in this year's class than Trae Young. There also isn't a player in the class more aware of the scouting reports, perceptions and dectractors of his game.

Wherever Young winds up, the widest spectrum among that team's fan base will be covered. There are those who believe the 6-foot-2 freshman's innate scoring and passing ability wil translate seamlessly at the next level, at a time in the history of the NBA where those traits are as important as ever. Then there are those who believe, rightfully so, that the 175-pound guard will have immense struggles on the defensive end and withstanding the physcality of an 82-game season.

Both positions are correct as the June 21 draft nears, and it's likely that NBA evaluators agree. The task then for Young, who completed his fourth and final private workout Thursday afternoon in Chicago, is to use the abilities that made him an All-American and cover his weaknesses enough to justify what should be a Lottery selection in a week.

"That’s my goal and that’s my job, to change the narrative," Young said.

He's a confident kid, and why wouldn't he be? You've heard already that Young became the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in both points and assists. But remember, too, that he had the highest usage rate of any player the last decade - and did so as a freshman.

Young raised up the games of those around him, so much so that the previously unranked Sooners got as high as No. 4 in the AP polls this past season. Young went through an ugly stretch in February (and March) after it appeared he'd run away with Player of the Year honors. But those team results - at this stage in his career - don't matter as much as his personal ones do.

And what Young brings to the table is a lights-out shooter and adept playmaker, capable of running an offense with precision. He'll have more freedom, space and talent around him at the next level, which brings us back to his confidence.

"I think just by the spacing alone is going to make my game that much better and that much easier for my teammates," he said. "I just try to make the right play. It led to me leading the country in points and assists. So as long as I’m making the right play and doing the right things something like that could happen. That’s all my mind set is, is making the right play and doing the right thing each and every possession."

That would be a sight for sore eyes in Chicago.

In three seasons Hoiberg’s starting point guards (Derrick Rose in 2015, Rajon Rondo in 2016, Kris Dunn in 2017) combined to shoot 32.8 percent from deep on 417 attempts. Those three players combined to make 137 3-pointers in their respective starting seasons; Young made 118 3-pointers last year alone at Oklahoma.

Hoiberg has had able 3-point shooting point guards off the bench, namely E’Twaun Moore, Jerian Grant and even Cameron Payne, but never one capable of carrying a heavy load.

Hoiberg finally found a semblance of the roster he felt would carry out his offense most efficiently, as the Bulls ranked 6th in 3-point attempts per game and 10th in makes. But volume numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the Bulls were 27th in 3-point field goal percentage and ranked 28th in offensive efficiency. Basketball has become more perimeter-oriented than ever before, but those shots still need to go in. That's where Young comes in.

"I don’t think there’s anybody like me in the draft. I think with the guys and the talent around on (the Bulls) with different abilities – we have athletic wings, shooters, shooting big men who can pick and pop – and then my ability to pass the ball and ability to shoot the ball will make it easier for my teammates and this team. I think it would be a great decision to pick me."

The flip side, of course, is that Young makes a Bulls defense that ranked 28th in efficiency last season even worse. As we wrote earlier this month, there's no sugarcoating Young's defensive issues. There won't be a growth spurt between now and draft night, and even if he has put on some weight (#MuscleWatch) since the Combine, he's undersized and he's going to stay undersized.

Even Young admits as much.

"I think that’s an area of concern for people. My job is to go out there and prove that it’s not," Young said. "That was a concern for people coming into college and I didn’t let that be a factor. I know that’s going to be a concern but my job is to make that not a factor."

Positional need also comes into play. Though the Bulls, a 27-win team with minimal assets for the future, can't be too picky about drafting for need vs. best available, they do like what they saw from point guard Kris Dunn a year ago. While Dunn's defensive prowess might help cover some of Young's deficiencies, Dunn hasn't proven capable of playing off the ball if both were to play together.

Young said the Bulls didn't mention Dunn - in a good or bad sense - during their meetings and that he's comfortable sharing the court with whomever, so long as it improves the team.

There are glaring pros and cons with Young, perhaps magnified more so than other top prospects because of his style. He's aware of everything being said, written about and critiqued about him. He isn't running from his weaknesses and he isn't making excuses.

"I know what I have to work on," he said. "I know what I have to get better at and I know what I have to show and improve as soon as I get on whatever team I go to. That’s my main focus, is just focusing on what I need to get better at and improving in that way."

Bulls engaging in Jabari Parker trade talks, according to a report


Bulls engaging in Jabari Parker trade talks, according to a report

Jabari Parker's time in a Bulls uniform could be coming to a close.

According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls are engaging in trade talks regarding Parker with several teams.

It should be no surprise if and when the Bulls ultimately move on from Parker. Following a report that the 23-year-old Chicago-native will be dropped from the Bulls' rotation, Parker played just four minutes Thursday against the Magic. In fact, he played just 19 minutes in the Bulls' previous game, Monday against the Kings.

"I think it's a matchup thing," coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "I also think that it's hard to play three fours. It's very difficult to do that. We played him some minutes at three and I didn't think that was the way to go the rest of the game."

However, Boylen's comments backup the fact that Parker was always a curious fit for the Bulls. At 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, Parker is best-suited to play power forward, though the Bulls tried to play him at small forward to start the season. 

Overall, Parker is ranked 414th out 451 NBA players on ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus rankings. According to ESPN, RPM demonstrates the "net change in score (plus or minus) while each player is on the court." If his ranking did not make it obvious enough, Parker's DRPM of -1.65 leaves a lot to be desired. 

When it became apparent that Parker struggles to guard other small forwards, the Bulls moved him to the bench. At that point, Parker, the Bulls' highest-paid player, became a $20 million bench player. He returned to the starting lineup following injuries to Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, but both players have since returned to game action for the Bulls. 

Even with Chandler Hutchinson (sick) out for the Bulls on Thursday, Parker did not see much action. Following the game, Boylen said that he likes Hutchinson, but there might be a chance to get Parker minutes at small forward.

"Him (Parker) playing four is difficult right now. Him playing three, there may be an opportunity there," Boylen said. "I like Hutch. Hutch was sick tonight so Jabari got some of those minutes at three in that situation."

Saturday is the first day that Parker is eligible to be traded. Defensive struggles aside, Parker could provide a team with an offensive boost. This season, he is averaging 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

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Former Bulls center Joakim Noah says he was "too lit" to play in New York City


Former Bulls center Joakim Noah says he was "too lit" to play in New York City

What went wrong for former Bull and current Grizzlies center Joakim Noah with the Knicks?

Noah opened up about his Knicks-tenure in a recent interview on the Chris Vernon Show, admitting he was not ready for life in New York.

"I don’t think it was one thing, I think it was a lot of things," Noah said. "I’m not here to blame anybody, or it’s anybody’s fault. It just didn’t work out.

"I can look back on it and say I thought I was ready for New York City, but I wasn’t. It’s something that I gotta live with.

Noah, who signed with the Grizzlies earlier this month for the veteran's minimum, played in just 53 games across two seasons with the Knicks. His tenure was marked by knee and shoulder injuries after signing a four-year, $72 million contract in July 2016.

Injuries aside, Noah was also suspended 20 games for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy. However, he implied that partying was a factor in his struggles.

"I remember after the first game, I probably had 60 people in my house," he said. "I’m too lit, I’m too lit to play in New York City. Memphis is perfect for me."

The Knicks ultimately released Noah in October, though he had been away from the team since January after getting into an altercation at practice with former Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Essentially kicked off the team at that point, Noah said that he had a decision to make about how he wanted to live his life.

"When I got kicked off the team, it was New York Fashion Week and I was getting paid a lot of money and I had no direction," he said. "I really had to make a decision of how I wanted to live my life, because if I kept going in the direction that I was going in and stayed in New York, then I probably wouldn’t be here right now."

"I’m getting paid millions of dollars and I have nothing to do and I’m 32 years old. I really had to lock in and set a routine for myself. [Because] partying and being an athlete, they don’t go hand-in-hand."

But what about Noah's tenure with the Bulls?

"We were lit in Chicago, but I was young, so you recover faster."

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