Trae Young

Trae Young grateful for the advice Stacey King has given him: 'He's a legend'

Trae Young grateful for the advice Stacey King has given him: 'He's a legend'

Thursday was all about Trae Young, as the Oklahoma point guard completed his private workout with the Bulls at the Advocate Center.

And during his 11-minute interview with media following that workout, he showered some praise on a fellow Oklahoma hoops star and one of our dear colleagues.

When asked if Bulls color commentator Stacey King had given Young any advice on the draft process, the sharpshooter responded with this:

"I’ve talked to Mr. King. He’s a legend in Oklahoma. We never really talked necessarily about the Bulls but he gave me a lot of advice throughout the season," Young said. "He’s a legend, so anytime I’m able to speak to someone like him I listen and evaluate his opinion. It was great."

Young and King have a connection, of course, as two of the best Sooners to ever lace it up in Norman, Okla.

King was sensational as a senior, averaging 26.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and was named the Big 8 Player of the Year.

Many of his single-season scoring records stood until Young came around this past season.

Real recognize real. Good looks, Trae Young.

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."

A history of Lottery teams trading down; Could the Bulls be next, and what would would it look like?

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USA TODAY

A history of Lottery teams trading down; Could the Bulls be next, and what would would it look like?

John Paxson admitted at his end-of-year press conference in April that the Bulls’ rebuild was moving along quicker than expected, and that they didn’t plan to be in this position – a 27-win team ranked 28th in offense and defense – ever again. He’s not wrong. Lauri Markkanen has proved to be a promising young piece, Kris Dunn showed a pulse after a woeful rookie season and Zach LaVine, for better or worse, averaged 16.7 points and, most importantly, stayed healthy.

The Bulls are one of five teams with multiple first-round picks – Phoenix, Philadelphia and the Clippers have two and Atlanta has three – and ample cap space to be active in free agency. All that looks good on paper and is true. The Bulls have a solid foundation with which to enter Year 2 of the rebuild. The other reality is that the team is incredibly shallow on talent. Assuming David Nwaba (and LaVine) both re-sign, the Bulls really only have five players they could truly consider part of the future: Markkanen, Dunn, LaVine, Nwaba, Bobby Portis (and even Portis remains a question mark given the contract he’ll need in 13 months).

So it’s entirely feasible that the Bulls, sitting at No. 7 in this year’s draft, could look to move out of that slot if the first six picks go in an unfavorable order. We will safely assume in this scenario Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson and Mo Bamba are off the board. If the Bulls aren’t sold on Michael Porter’s medicals and Trae Young goes sixth, they may want to move out. Or, if they feel comfortable with Kris Dunn running the point and improving his jumper and Michael Porter goes sixth, they may want to move out instead of drafting Young.

Whatever the scenario, let’s say it plays out where the Bulls don’t like their options at No. 7 as much as they would like moving back in the draft, dealing with a team that loves Porter or Young.

The two most likely scenarios for moving back involve the Clippers and Suns. Beginning with Los Angeles, Doc Rivers’ group missed the postseason (one Lottery pick) after dealing Blake Griffin (for, among other assets, another Lottery pick) at the deadline. Depth has been an issue for them, but with a 31-year-old Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan entering a contract year (assuming he opts in) they aren’t exactly getting younger. Perhaps they want to make another run at the postseason and add a more ready Day 1 contributor. The proposed deal would be the Clippers packaging Nos. 12 and 13 for No. 7.

Phoenix holds the No. 1 pick in addition to the No. 16 pick they acquired from Miami as part of the Goran Dragic deal in 2015. Rumors are floating that they’re attempting to get back into the top half of the Lottery to make a run at Young, who obviously won’t be available at 16.

Phoenix could, in theory, package No. 16 and an unprotected first-round pick to the Bulls for No. 7. The Suns had the league’s worst record a year ago but would undoubtedly improve in a scenario where they added Ayton and Young to a core with Devin Booker, Marquese Criss and T.J. Warren. This wouldn’t make Phoenix a playoff threat – or, realistically, even a 33-win team – giving the Bulls a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. The Bulls would then pick at 16 and 22 this year.

Even if Phoenix put some kind of protections on the pick (it couldn’t be heavy considering they’re only getting adding the 16th pick in the deal) the Bulls are still looking at a top future pick from the Suns.

There is precedent for teams trading back in the top 10, though not with the No. 7 pick or better. Here’s are close as we could find in the last decade or so.

2017: Sacramento trades No. 10 to Portland for Nos. 15 and 20

2016: Sacramento trades No. 8 to Phoenix for Nos. 13 and 28 and Bojan Bogdanovic (+ 2020 2nd)

2014: Denver trades No. 11 to Chicago for Nos. 16 and 19

2013: Minnesota trades No. 9 to Utah for Nos. 14 and 21

Short-term it of course would be better for the Bulls to retain two picks in this year's Lottery, and have 12, 13 and 22. It's not so much overkill as it three opportunities to find a real player for the future. They've got 11 players under contract before re-signing Zach LaVine, David Nwaba and potentially Noah Vonleh. They could also cut Paul Zipser without much of a cap hit, so it's realistic for them to add three first-rounders to the roster. A lot depends on what Paxson and Gar Forman think of the players slotted to go at the end of the Lottery.

Long-term the Suns' offer probably makes more sense. Even a realistic outlook has the Bulls perhaps two years away from the postseason. That means receiving a 2019 Lottery pick from the Suns gives the Bulls two picks in that draft to go with a core of Markkanen/Dunn/LaVine/Portis/16th pick/22nd pick. That appears to be a better path to success in 2020, especially if the Suns struggle and convey a top-5 or top-7 pick to the Bulls. If they really believe Young is the real deal they'd be willing to give up a first-round pick next year.