Some compare him to Stephen Curry. Others say he reminds them of Steve Nash. What’s clear is that Trae Young has wowed crowds left and right through his short college basketball career, and the only thing left for the electrifying guard out of Oklahoma is whether he can be equally as productive at the pro level.
The Atlanta Hawks are hoping the answer is yes after selecting him No. 5 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft after trading down from the No. 3 pick to select him. Atlanta passed on the chance to select Luka Doncic for Young and the Mavericks’ 2019 first-round pick. Will they be vindicated?
The knocks against Young are real. He’s only 6’2, 180 pounds. That frame is light and fragile enough to get roughed up against tougher, stronger NBA guards. He proved he’s willing to put the work in to get stronger, the proof coming in 10 pounds of muscle put on during the season. But several NBA scouts had their reservations about Young — those comparisons to a two-time MVP, his size, and how he’d hold up in an 82-game season.
As for his defense, well, Young intends to prove to the Hawks he can compete against pro guards.
“I don’t really think there’s necessarily a way to improve defensively by going one on zero,” Young said according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I think just working on body, continuing to work on my speed, just showing from Day 1 that I am going to change the narrative. That’s my goal and my job, to change the narrative on that.”
That’s that. Now, for the fun stuff.
Young is as explosive a scorer as they come in this year’s draft. He led all of college basketball with 27.4 points per game. His play garnered attention and eventually praise from Curry, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, among others. How could it not? He scored 48 points in an overtime loss to Oklahoma State. FORTY-EIGHT POINTS! And he carried an otherwise unknown Sooners basketball team to an NCAA tournament appearance and subsequent first-round loss to Buffalo.
Young also led college basketball with 8.8 assists per game. His 22 dimes against Northwestern State tied a record set by Sherman Douglas, Tony Fairley, and Avery Johnson back in the late 1980s.
Young has talent. But will it shine through in a guard-heavy NBA?
That’s the question the Hawks face with this selection at pick No. 5 in this year’s NBA Draft. Except for Luka Doncic — the player they passed on taking at No. 3 — the best players in this class are big men and wings. Young is the outlier: a player who started the year as high as a top-four pick on many mock drafts before tapering off toward the end of the season.
But will he stand the test of time and ultimately join the ranks of a Stephen Curry, or of a Steve Nash? Just like every other prospect, we’ll have to wait and see. But if he’s scoring at will as he did at Oklahoma, it’ll be fun to watch either way.
More SB Nation coverage of Trae Young:
Trae Young is becoming college basketball’s next Steph Curry
By Ricky O’Donnell, Nov. 28, 2017
How does a freshman generously listed at 6’2, 180 pounds, who probably can’t dunk, turn into the most productive point guard in college basketball immediately? This is how the Sooners’ new star is doing it.
How Trae Young is becoming the biggest thing in college basketball
By Mike Rutherford, Jan. 3, 2018
The easiest response to the hoard of Steph Curry comparisons that are now floating around everywhere is to say that they’re lazy and unfair. But isn’t this the case with virtually every amateur to pro comparison? The whole point of the exercise is to frame a player’s skill set in a way that isn’t wholly accurate but easier to digest for the average sports mind. Young isn’t Curry, but watch any segment of any Oklahoma game and you see why the parallel continues to be drawn.
The Big Trae Young Draft Profile
By Seth Oliveras, Crimson and Cream Machine
Trae Young has gone on record in saying how he’s modeled his game after NBA greats like Steve Nash and Steph Curry. He’s only 19 years old, but after watching every game of his college career as an Oklahoma Sooner, it’s apparent to me that he’s put in the work to study up on Nash and Curry’s respective styles. In turn, Young has adapted many of their qualities into his game and developed them into his strengths.