Oklahoma

Why the Bulls should draft the historically good Trae Young

Why the Bulls should draft the historically good Trae Young

You’ve clicked on this story for one of three reasons: You believe Trae Young is the real deal, something special built for today’s NBA; you aren’t a fan of Trae Young but believe this story could convince you otherwise, as he’s an option for the Bulls at No. 7; you aren’t a fan of Trae Young and want to comment something inappropriate and ask us how we even got this job.

No, there isn’t another player in recent memory who has drawn such mixed reviews from fan bases since Young, the undersized point guard (bad) who last year became the first player ever to lead the NCAA in points and assists (good). He doesn’t play much defense at all (bad) but could become a historically good offensive player (good). He wasn’t very efficient (bad) but was asked to do anything and everything to will an average Oklahoma team to the NCAA Tournament (good).

You can play the good/bad game with any prospect the last decade except Anthony Davis, but the passion displayed by those analyzing Young in a positive or negative light has been taken to new heights.

He’s not Jimmer Fredette, who lasted all of five seasons averaging 6.0 points in the NBA. And he’s not Stephen Curry, the greatest shooter in league history and a lock for the Hall of Fame at 30 years old. The question NBA general managers will have to answer is whether Young is closer to becoming someone like Curry than he is Fredette. And should any NBA executives ask us our opinion we’ll let them know: Oklahoma point guard Trae Young has NBA superstar written all over him.

The most important number you’ll need to know with Young is 38.4. Young’s usage rate not only led the country, it was the highest rate of any player who played in 50 percent of his team’s minutes since 2008. Seventeen players have reached even 36.0 percent usage; that list consists of 10 seniors, three juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen (Miami Ohio’s Michael Weathers in 2017 being the other). It wasn’t just that Oklahoma relied heavily on Young. They relied on him more than any player in the country the last decade, and they relied on him as a 19-year-old who months earlier was attending prom.

Of those 17 players, Young’s assist rate (48.3) was far and away the highest, while his true shooting percentage (5th) and offensive rating (4th) were both outstanding. The point here is: don’t hold Young’s inefficient raw shooting (42.2 percent) or raw turnovers (5.2) against him; he was thrown into the fire and asked to do more than any player in college basketball. For all he was asked to do, he was plenty efficient in his massive, unprecedented role.

One of those juniors in the 36% usage rate club, of course, was Curry. The shooting sensation from Davidson was otherworldly as a junior, compiling an absurd 60.5 true shooting percentage, 118.0 offensive rating and burying 127 3-pointers at a nearly 37 percent clip. Curry went seventh overall in the 2009 NBA Draft amid concerns about his decision making and defense. Sound familiar?

Young’s calling card was his isolation prowess. He averaged 1.12 points per possession on 157 possessions, putting him in the 85th percentile nationally, per Synergy Sports. That was a tick better than Curry, who averaged 0.93 PPP in isolation. Young also used nearly 37 percent of his possessions in pick-and-roll action. If a freshman’s game could ever be NBA-ready, it’s Young’s; 335 pick-and-roll possessions is nearly unheard of. Young ranked in the 76th percentile nationally in PnR action with 0.881 PPP; his passing was also stellar in these actions and where many of his 279 assists came from.

All things considered, Young had a better offensive season as a freshman than Curry did as a junior. That’s notable considering their similarities. And again, Young’s skill set translates considerably well to the NBA. That’s not just a cliché or buzzword: he’s a pick-and-roll star with 3-point range out to 30 feet; Young shot 37.1 percent on NBA 3-pointers a year ago. That’s…wild.

Here’s the part of the story that the first group is going to hate, and the other two will love. Young offers very, very little defensively. There’s no sugarcoating it. Young ranked in the 30th percentile defending the pick and roll, which is just as big an issue as his offense in those situations is a positive. Young was below average in isolation and defending jump shots. His 2.5 percent steal rate was just OK. The only real good news was he averaged 2.0 fouls per 40 minutes, though that could have been a result of the Sooners needing him to stay out of foul trouble to carry the offensive load. When Young was on the bench the Sooners were B-A-D.

He measured just shy of 6-foot-2 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine, the latter of which was the shortest of all players. He also weighed in at 177.8 pounds, the lightest of any player. He isn’t big, and he isn’t going to get much bigger. Even Curry measured taller than 6-foot-3 and 181 pounds. Though both are “undersized,” Young is tiny.

So he isn’t the perfect prospect. There’s a reason he isn’t in consideration as a top-3 pick. His deficiencies are clear and it’ll cost him on draft night. In a draft class littered with elite forward/center talent, Young might fall right into the lap of a team willing to overlook his struggles and fall in love with an elite level of offensive skill.

It could be the Bulls. Whether you believe Kris Dunn is just cracking the surface of his potential or is a 24-year-old with a limited ceiling, there’s room on any team’s roster for a player like Young. It’s entirely feasible to picture Dunn and Young playing alongside each other. If anything Young can cover up some of Dunn’s playmaking deficiencies, while Dunn can cover up Young’s defensive weaknesses. The two actually complement each other well. Think Isaiah Thomas in Boston playing next to Avery Bradley.

And as if he needed it, Lauri Markkanen becomes an even more versatile scorer with Young in the mix. Dunn wasn't neccesarily a bad pick and roll player, but the thought of Young and Markkanen playing off each other is scary-good. The Bulls need shooters, and more importantly they need creators. Young accomplishes both. There's not much room for him to play off the ball, but Dunn looks to be improving as a shooter in Year 3 and has the size to play on the wing with Zach LaVine. No, it's not the perfect situation for Dunn, but the NBA is about getting the five best players on the floor.

Young has his deficiencies, and thus has his doubters. There isn't a perfect prospect (again, other than Anthony Davis) and the NBA team that selects Young will need to hide him defensively and put him in the right situations offensively. But the upside here is far too great. He's 19 years old and just put together arguably the most historic offensive season in NCAA history. He's motivated, he's built for the league, and he's another piece of the puzzle toward getting the Bulls back in contention.

NBA Draft Tracker: Oklahoma PG Trae Young

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Oklahoma PG Trae Young

When the college basketball season began, not many fans knew about Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young. He was nowhere to be found in early mock drafts done by the national websites.

Now, the 6'2 Norman, Oklahoma native is the talk of the college basketball world after matching the Division I record with 22 assists in the Sooners' win over Northwestern St. on Tuesday. He also scored 26 points in that game, becoming the first player in nearly two decades to record at least 20 points and 20 assists in the same game. Young currently leads the nation in scoring and assists, averaging 28.5 ppg and 10.2 apg.

But it's more than just the raw numbers that make Young such an intriguing prospect. His ball-handling skills, quick release and unlimited shooting range remind scouts of a young Steph Curry. And, while it's always dangerous to compare an undersized freshman to a two-time league MVP, remember how undervalued Curry was coming out of Davidson because of concerns about his strength and durability.

If you want to see Young for yourself, he'll be playing against Chris Collins' Northwestern team Friday night at 6 p.m. in a nationally televised game. Watch how easily Young is able to get his shot off, using elite dribbling skills and step-back moves to create separation from defenders. He's got range well beyond the NBA 3-point line which often catches college guards flat-footed, and he's quick enough to blow by defenders for easy baskets in the paint.

Young's passing ability was on full display in that blowout win over Northwestern St. on Tuesday. He's got the full arsenal of no-look passes, with his ball-handling skills allowing him to get into the teeth of an opponent's defense and still find an open teammate.

How does he potentially fit with the Bulls? Well, if they continue on their current hot streak, the Bulls could find themselves picking in the 5-10 range, instead of at the top of the draft. Young was recently listed as the No. 9 pick in a mock draft done by Basketball Insiders, and he should continue to climb up the ladder if he maintains his current numbers against a tough Big 12 schedule.

If the Bulls drafted Young, they could potentially pair him with Kris Dunn in a smaller backcourt, with Dunn taking on the defensive responsibility against taller shooting guards. Zach LaVine would have to slide to small forward in that line-up, but in today's position-less NBA with more teams utilizing guard-heavy line-ups, a Dunn-Young-LaVine trio could work.

Nothing has changed at the top of the draft, where Marvin Bagley, Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are still the top prizes, but keep an eye on Trae Young throughout the college season. The similarity in his style of play to Curry is pretty remarkable.

Fred Hoiberg trolls Stacey King after Iowa State knocks off Oklahoma

Fred Hoiberg trolls Stacey King after Iowa State knocks off Oklahoma

Fred Hoiberg is usually a pretty polite dude. He couldn't help from talking trash on Sunday, though. 

Before the Bulls and Pelicans tipped off, the head coach passed along a hilarious message to TV analyst and University of Oklahoma alumnus Stacey King, reveling in one particular college football result. 

"I was just wondering if (King) saw the Iowa State-Oklahoma game last night. It was pretty good," Hoiberg said, referencing the Cyclones' 38-31 mammoth upset over King's fourth-ranked Sooners. 

Ice cold. 

Hoiberg, better known as The Mayor in Iowa, had to stick it to King given that his Cyclones were 31-points dogs in Norman. It's not like King was just going to accept the L, though. 

"That's the first time Fred Hoiberg has even claimed Iowa State had a football team," King barked back. "Even a blind squirrel will find a nut." 

Watch the exchange in the video above.