There may not be another prospect like Trae Young coming into the NBA.
In the context that there may not be another prospect who has left the general NBA crowd divided on what his future will be, and why wouldn’t he?
A freshman with very little expectations coming into this past collegiate season, Trae Young showed signs that he was a star in the making his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma just as much as he showed signs that he shouldn’t be anywhere near the NBA.
The Oklahoma Sooner freshman burst onto the scene in the first month of the NCAA season, as he averaged 28.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field through the first eleven games of the season, including 41 percent from three, which led to scouts everywhere pegging him as a potential top-five pick in a deep draft.
Then the rest of the season happened.
Young’s stock plunged as the season continued. While his scoring numbers didn’t drop astronomically, his shooting numbers dwindled badly as the season came to its end. This was lowlighted by the final seven regular-season games of Young’s collegiate career, in which he averaged 19.8 points on 33 percent shooting from the field.
Young’s Jekyll-and-Hyde like college performance brought just as many believers as it did skeptics, so when Young was selected fifth overall in the draft, it led to a wide array of reactions, with the one being the most agreed upon among the crowd is that the Hawks took a major risk with Young.
Because of this, all eyes have been on Young since the start of summer league. Since his start at the Utah Jazz Summer League, only one word could summarize Young’s performance: Yikes.
The box scores speak for themselves
Day One vs. Grizzlies: 16 points on 4/20 from the field, 1/11 from three
Day Two vs. Spurs: 12 points on 5/16 from the field, ? from three
Day Three vs. Jazz: 12 points on 3/16 from the field, ? from three
Young’s passing and defense were impressive, but his struggles both with his shot-making and his shot selection stood out above all else. Chants of “G-League! G-League!” and “Luka! Luka!” rang through the crowd as Trae struggled to get his shot going. Despite that, Young himself stated that taunts like that don’t phase him because he focuses on the long-term.
“People will say all these different things about me, and I don’t let that get to me,’ Young said. “I play the same way. I prepare the same way, and it’s gotten me to this point so I know it will all pay off in the end.”
Though Young’s confidence remained unshaken, it seemed as though his skeptics had been proven right.
Then came Las Vegas.
Suddenly, the skills that convinced the Hawks slowly started the show themselves. Young’s debut in Vegas wasn’t pretty – 21 points on 4/12 shooting including 3/9 from three, but it was a step in the right direction given his disastrous stint in Salt Lake. Young’s passing skills were also on display as he dished out 11 assists while surrendering only three turnovers.
Following his debut in Vegas, Young reflected on his slow-but-steady improvements since his first outing in the Utah Jazz Summer League.
“I think I’m just getting more comfortable,” Young said. “This is all a process. Each game I’m going to continue to learn to get better. So today, I’m just transitioning and learning from the things that happened in Utah, and just got a little bit better today.”
On Monday, June 9, Young took another big step forward. Once the Hawks faced off against the Bulls, Young showed Atlanta another glimpse of what they were hoping for when they traded for his draft rights. The struggles from the field only slightly improved – 7/19 overall – but the real highlight of the night was Young’s hot shooting from three-point land, as all of his shots made came from the perimeter, propelling the team to its first victory in the summer league.
Young’s three-pointer showing signs of life had to be a major boost for him, given that before his three-point explosion, he was very aware of his struggles from the perimeter.
“I’ve gotten a lot of open looks,” Young said. “Separation hasn’t been the problem. It’s just been knocking down the shots.”
Young’s most recent performance doesn’t get him out of the woods, but his improvements over time, highlighted by his recent three-point splurge, shows that he may not be a lost cause after all. Young believes that as he continues to get his feet wet in the pros, his game will eventually translate completely.
“Throughout the whole draft process, I was in one-on-(zero) draft workouts and it’s been a lot different getting into game mode,” Young said. “Now that I’m getting into a rhythm, and getting more under my feet, I’m just trying to get better each and every game.”
The NBA audience will definitely keep tabs on Trae Young more than almost any other rookie this season no matter how he plays this upcoming season. Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the young guard’s career moving forward, something that we all can agree on is that, based on his overall performance in the summer league, we know absolutely nothing about what Trae Young’s future holds.