Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
The news hardly comes as a surprise after Young dominated during his freshman season in Norman, leading men’s Division I basketball in both points (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game. That didn’t translate to much success in the NCAA tournament, however, as Rhode Island defeated Oklahoma in an opening-round overtime thriller.
The loss was hardly Young’s fault, however, as B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman noted:
Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass
Trae Young, 19, just had 28-7-5 on 9-18 in his first NCAA tourney game, carried a bad OU team to OT vs higher seed (OU’s 2nd/3rd leading scorers combined 4-17)…and if you followed the game on twitter you’d think he blew it for his team.
“He’s a special player,” Dan Hurley, Rhode Island’s coach, said after that contest, per Scott Gleeson of USA Today. “One of the best players I’ve ever coached against.”
Given that Young is likely going to be a lottery pick and could even sneak into the top five, depending on how teams evaluate him, his entry into the NBA draft after the 2017-18 season always felt like an inevitability.
Wasserman, for instance, projected Young to be the No. 9 overall pick to the New York Knicks in his March 13 mock draft, with Jeremy Woo of SI.com making the same projection March 14. As Woo wrote, “Though his star has dimmed a bit with his late-season struggles, he’s still a fascinating talent and in the right situation could pace a team with his shooting and playmaking.”
The 6’2″, 180-pound Young has question marks, namely his size, defense and shot selection. But on an NBA team with more reliable scorers surrounding him, Young—who proved himself a more than capable facilitator at Oklahoma—likely would feel less pressure to hoist up questionable shots.
Young isn’t Steph Curry, but nobody else ever has been, either. If Young can continue to be a playmaker and becomes a more efficient, volume scorer, his deficiencies will be more easily overlooked.