Is there anything Trae Young can’t do? That’s the question college basketball fans and NBA general managers are left with after another transcendent performance from the Oklahoma point guard in the first Big 12 game of his career.
Young had no easy task on Saturday afternoon: a road trip to face No. 10 TCU in a game that gave the Horned Frogs a chance for the validation they crave. TCU looked like it would get it ... at least until Young ripped its heart out.
The Sooners’ 90-89 victory was only possible because of another masterpiece from Young. The final line speaks for itself: 39 points and 14 assists on 9-of-23 shooting from the field and 6-of-14 shooting from three-point range.
Young can hit any shot he wants off the dribble. He can consistently get to the foul line. He’s a brilliant and unselfish passer. And with each passing game, he just keeps getting better.
Trae Young makes shots no one else would even take
This is how Young opened the game against TCU:
Trae Young, pull-back from 30 pic.twitter.com/ocnNi4rmv7— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) December 30, 2017
That was just the start of it. The Oklahoma point guard has a way of breaking the rhythms of the game that is so reminiscent of Stephen Curry. It’s almost impossible to defend a player who is draining shots no one else would even consider taking.
This was just the start of it for Young. Young really got going in crunch time with the Sooners trailing 71-63 with about eight minutes left. These were his next two possessions back-to-back:
Young’s 41.1 three-point percentage is impressive but actually does a disservice to how good of a shooter he is. The degree of difficulty on these shots is incredible. Somehow he makes it look easy.
He can get to the rim, too
Young is not the biggest or fastest point guard. That’s putting it kindly. How many brilliant basketball players can’t even dunk? But at 6’2 and with unexceptional explosiveness, Young is still able to get anywhere he wants on the court. His level of craft is astounding.
For Young, every screen is a decoy until it isn’t. He can come off that pick and hit you with a step-back three. Next time he’ll use it to dart into the paint for a floater or layup. Then he’ll ignore the screen the next four possessions and go back to launching threes.
Maybe the most surprising thing about Young is how good he is at drawing fouls. He was 15-of-18 from the foul line against TCU, a sign that his lack of top-end athleticism doesn’t hinder his ability to probe the defense.
TCU couldn’t keep Young in front of them, so it had to foul him. Of course, it’s not easy to stay on balance when he’s capable of pulling up from anywhere.
His confidence is crazy
Here are back-to-back possessions from the second half:
On the first, Young uses a screen to get into the paint, attempts a floater, and gets swatted. That’s going to happen for a player with his measurables.
On the next, there’s Young pulling up from the center court logo to drain a three.
Young doesn’t care if he misses a shot or gets rejected at the rim. He’s coming down the court the next time he has the ball and he’s going at you again.
The man is leading the country in points and assists per game. That’s never been done before. We’ve really never seen anything like this, not from a freshman at a power conference school — not from anyone, ever.
What’s becoming clear is that Young does not need the Curry comparisons for validation. Trae Young is not the next Steph Curry. He’s the first Trae Young.