James Young, the uber-talented swingman out of Kentucky who just went 17th to the Boston Celtics, has a good chance to become the best scorer in this class outside of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. He’s that talented. He has the athleticism and stroke to be a great “3 & D” guy at the very worst. Those skill sets are coveted in a modern NBA where corner 3’s and sound defense often separate the good teams from the great teams. Players with James Young’s size, athleticism, and shooting stroke are very rare. And if one is on the board outside the lottery, you take him.
He was a great value pick for the Celtics. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about the rookie.
Hometown: Flint, Michigan
Height: 6′ 7″
Wingspan: 7′ 0″
Weight: 213 lb.
James Young was a dominant scorer and McDonald’s All-American during his days in Michigan. He averaged 27.2 points per game during his senior year. His ability to score from all over the floor made him a much-hyped member of the much-hyped Kentucky freshman class.
His college career got off to an unusual start with the play you can see below where he made a rather incredible shot…on his own basket.
But Young ended up having a prolific freshman season for the Wildcats.
Despite his smooth stroke Young shot a relatively unspectacular 34.9% on 3’s at Kentucky. But as I’ve said before, it’s ridiculous to judge a kids shooting ability off of a percentage from just 40 games. Young has a smooth, picture perfect stroke that he gets off with ease due to his length. It’s nearly impossible to alter his shot when he pulls up from deep. So while Young may have not been the model of efficiency during his lone college season, his numbers were on point with several other much-heralded wing prospects have gone on to NBA success
Young may not have the raw athleticism of a DeMar DeRozan, Harrison Barnes, or Ben McLemore. He probably doesn’t (and won’t) shoot it as well as Bradley Beal. He’s not the defensive player Lance Stephenson is. But James Young has more than enough ability in all those departments, and along with his wingspan, that is what makes him such an exciting prospect. His True Shooting is as expected more impressive than his straight up percentages, seeing as over half his shots at Kentucky were from deep.
He may have not put up the sheer volume of scoring some expected but that has a lot to do with playing on a very talented team and in a Calipari system that favors the Dribble-Drive, an offense that leans a lot less heavily on its wings than a typical motion based offense. All Kentucky really asked Young to do was get down the floor and drill 3’s. It should be noted he was the teams leading scorer in the championship game against UCONN with 20 points.
He will likely be more free to work in the NBA. He needs to get physically stronger so he can finish more effectively around the rim. He also needs to improve his ball-handling so he can create his own shot. But every single number you can throw out says one thing, James Young is a ridiculously talented basketball player.
He has a chance to develop into a plus-defender as well. Lateral quickness and wingspan are not problems. It’s on the Celtics staff to see to it that he develops on that end of the floor.
Vertical: 28″ standing, 35.5″ max
Bench Press: DNP
Lane Agility: DNP
3/4 Court Sprint: DNP
A car accident caused Young to miss some workouts but his athletic ability is clear when you watch him play.
As mentioned previously, James Young is a much better shooter than his basic college numbers say when you take into account the difficulty of his shots. A PER of 16.6 is actually very impressive for a shooter on a stacked team that is rarely the first option. His offensive rating of 114.8 is extremely impressive and Young will be an even more productive offensive threat if he can get to line more, which he should be able to do easily if he improves his dribbling. Young’s defensive rating of 104.3 is a little alarming but, again, that has a lot to do with how Kentucky plays. They protect the rim and pressure the backcourt, which often leads to opposing wings racking up the points.
Here’s what’s really exciting; Young shot 52% on threes from the left corner. That’s outstanding. It’s a significantly better percentage than that of Doug McDermott and is behind only Nik Stauskas in this draft. The corner three has become the backbone of NBA offenses, a major reason both Miami and San Antonio are so efficient, and Young hits it with ease. A corner three in the NBA is only one foot longer than in college. It won’t be a problem for Young to adjust.
Young also shoots 50% on floaters in the paint (very good) but just 52% at the rim. That will likely improve as he adds strengths and hones his slashing ability.
How He Fits:
The Celtics shot just 33.3% on threes last year, good for 28th in the NBA. They ranked 27th in offensive efficiency, 28th in True Shooting%, and 28th in Effective FG%. Bottom Line: the Celtics are a terrible shooting team. Out of qualifying players, Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley were their best shooters. Any help Young can give in that department is much needed.
Young is unlikely to start from the get-go but he should still be in for big minutes. His wingspan gives him the ability to guard players as tall as 6′ 10″, making him a dynamic option in small ball lineups. What’s most important though is that Young will be able to add shooting while not getting exposed one defense or slowing down what might end up being a faster-paced Celtics offense than we’re used to seeing thanks to the addition of Marcus Smart.
I, as well as Bill Simmons (see below), am a huge fan of this pick. Young fills an immediate need and was the best player on the board at #17. If I had to bet, I’d say that three years from now there will be at least five teams that regret not drafting him.