Boston Celtics: James Young’s Age Shouldn’t Matter

Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Boston Celtics guard James Young (13) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Celtics defeats the Suns 115-110. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Boston Celtics guard James Young (13) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Celtics defeats the Suns 115-110. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

James Young’s youth shouldn’t play a factor in deciding the final roster spot

After Demetrius Jackson inked a four-year deal with guaranteed money as a rookie, it is evident that there is only one roster spot up for grabs on the Boston Celtics. While many hope that Ben Bentil can latch onto the Celtics, it’s very unlikely considering he signed a non-guaranteed deal and James Young and R.J. Hunter both have guaranteed contracts this season.

Granted Demetrius Jackson and whoever is chosen as the 15th player on the Boston Celtics this year will spend a fair share of their time in the D-League, however the odd man out is free to sign with another team and also makes significantly less than if he was on the NBA roster.

When looking at R.J. Hunter and James Young, a lot of factors come into play. Both are former first round picks who the Celtics hoped could help solve their shooting problems, and neither did.

Hunter shot just 30.2 percent from three in 36 appearance for the Celtics as a rookie last season, and it dropped to 29.6 percent in the D-League and 20 percent in the playoffs when he saw 8.2 minutes per game. On the other hand, Young has shot just 25 percent from deep over his first two NBA seasons and his three-point percentage in the D-League dropped by 9.2 percent from his rookie to sophomore season, falling to 35 percent last season.

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While neither have seen much significant or consistent playing time, it’s evident that neither were ready to contribute to an NBA team right away. Both still hold plenty of potential and could become consistent three-point shooters one day. That being said, the Celtics need to look at who can help them in the immediate future, and that’s R.J. Hunter.

Due to Hunter’s and Young’s early career struggles, the Celtics opted towards signing veteran Gerald Green to a one-year deal. It gives their young sharpshooters another season to develop and play significant minutes in the D-League, and it also gives the Celtics a more stable shooting option.

However, as we witnessed last postseason, injuries happen. It forced rookies Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter into action after barely playing any minutes with significance in the regular season. If that happened again, or if Gerald Green’s shooting continues to struggle like last season with the Miami Heat, then Brad Stevens could be forced to turn to either Hunter or Young.

Therefore, despite them battling for the 15th roster spot, it still carries significance to the team moving forward.

Hunter has only had one season in the NBA, and showed more than Young has in his first two. Whether the system isn’t right for Young’s style of play or he’s not getting consistent minutes, James Young has failed to find his niche with the Celtics. Besides, a bigger role won’t open up for Young. The Celtics will turn to him if they need a sharpshooter and he hasn’t proven he’s capable of that.

Even though Hunter barely eclipsed 30 percent shooting from three as a rookie, Young has never been able to reach those marks and his three-point percentage dropped significantly as a second-year player in the D-League. That shouldn’t instill confidence in the Celtics coaching staff, or in himself, and that was evident during the playoffs last year.

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Instead of turning to a second-year player in James Young, they gave 8.2 minutes per game in five of six postseason games to Hunter. Sure, R.J. Hunter didn’t light up the scoreboard or become Stephen Curry from three, but it shows who Brad Stevens had more trust in.

When the two finally had a chance to see significant minutes against lesser competition this summer, Hunter still out shined Young. He shot 47.2 percent from three, compared to Young shooting 43.4 percent, and his range was much more impressive. Hunter was able to step back a couple of feet behind the three-point line multiple times and hit shots with ease. It was Steph Curry range.

Arguably the biggest thing that Young has going for him, though, is his age. Both players are young, but James Young just turned 21-years-old in late August while R.J. Hunter will be 23 to start the season. To put in perspective how crazy young Young is, 2016 second round pick Demetrius Jackson just turned 22 on Wednesday, and he has yet to make his NBA debut.

Of course, Young coming out after his freshman season at Kentucky has caused this uncharacteristic youth in the NBA, but it still gives many hope that his game will mature with age. Although, at some point, you have to admit that James Young will never be the All-Star we hoped for, or even a rotational player on the Celtics.

He is a freak athlete, as he showed at Kentucky, but you can’t get by on pure athleticism. When it comes down to it, Young hasn’t shown the innate ability to score that he did at Kentucky, and he’s not a shut down defender like Jaylen Brown projects to be as a rookie. You could argue that Young needs a bigger role to fully establish himself as an NBA scorer, but that won’t happen on the Celtics.

Boston has one of the deepest back courts in the NBA, yet are still in search of a three-point specialist. Despite only shooting 34.9 percent from three in college, Young had potential to grow in that area. The Celtics drafted Young with the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft based solely on potential, and it didn’t pan out with the Celtics.

Either way, a change of scenery would probably be the best thing for James Young. There’s a lot of pressure and disappointing looks from the fans and franchise towards him as he’s already being labeled as a bust. Getting a fresh start is the best thing for players sometimes, and that could be the case for Young here.

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In the end, though, the Celtics need to look at who they think can come in this season and knock down threes if called upon. Brad Stevens didn’t shy away from the opportunity to give Hunter minutes early in the season or in the postseason last year, and after his summer league performance Stevens likely has even more confidence in the young shooter.

Just because Young is a year younger doesn’t take away from his poor NBA career and the fact he has scored more than 10 points just once in 60 career games. He hasn’t gotten the job done, or shown any improvement over his two seasons, therefore it’s hard to give up on last year’s first round pick for 2014’s.

Maybe on a different team in a bigger role, with less pressure, Young will be able to find his niche in the NBA. Plus, unless another team signs him, Young would stay in Maine where the Celtics could see if a full season in the D-League helped his development.

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Either way, age alone isn’t enough to keep players around. Hunter has only had one season to prove himself, compared to Young’s two, and it’s evident that there is more trust in him if the Celtics have to look at the end of the bench this season.