Drafted by: Boston Celtics, No. 17 overall
Height/Weight: 6'7", 213 lbs
Age: 18 years old
Projected NBA Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Pro Comparison: Michael Beasley/Michael Redd
Twitter Handle: @realjamesyoung
Sweet-shooting southpaw James Young was only at Kentucky for one year, but he showed enough during the Wildcats' Final Four season to garner a high NBA draft stock.
He has the look and range of a pro wing, as he tossed triples over the defense throughout his freshman season. If he can expand his game and sharpen the fundamentals, his future looks bright.
Julius Randle might be the most prized Kentucky prospect in 2014, but scouts and general managers love the length and scoring upside that Young brings to the table.
The 6'7" youngster has a long way to go before he becomes a complete NBA player. However, his physical tools and perimeter shooting touch are great building blocks for a standout swingman.
|Statistics at Kentucky|
Young's ample height and expansive reach stood out on the college level, and measurements at the NBA combine confirmed that he owns abundant length to play the 2 or 3 spot.
He stands 6'5.25" in socks and 6'6.75" in shoes, and his wingspan registered at 7'0". That length will help him get his shot off against the majority of wings at the next level, and he'll be able to challenge and alter shots on the other end as well.
Young isn't the most impressive athlete, however. He can leap a little when he gets a head of steam in the open floor, but he's not the most explosive player.
His lack of foot speed will limit his ability to blow by opponents and hinder his defensive exploits. In addition, he could stand to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle to help battle NBA forwards.
Young shot just 35 percent from beyond the arc in 2013-14, but scouts and analysts know he has the natural stroke to excel from deep at the next level.
Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com (subscription required) reminded us not to worry about Young's freshman stats:
Armed with a nice, fluid stroke from the perimeter, Young definitely looks the part of the shooter label he came to Kentucky with, even though the numbers don't quite bear out. Still, he managed to improve his shooting steadily throughout the second half of the season and ended up with a respectable 35 percent clip from downtown.
Right now, he's more of a spot-up shooter, but he could eventually become proficient off the dribble or coming off screens.
With his streamlined release and aforementioned length, Young should be able to take (and make) bunches of triples.
Young couldn't consistently drive the ball at Kentucky, and he probably won't create shots with advanced moves in the NBA. However, he should be able to attack seams with one or two dribbles and use his size to score in the lane.
He showed glimpses of his slashing ability throughout the year, and no play was more impressive than his emphatic flush in the NCAA title game:
If he can make his presence felt with a few strong drives per game, defenders will think twice about overplaying him on the perimeter or overcompensating on closeouts.
A tightened handle and improved right hand would significantly upgrade his scoring productivity.
There are some unnerving aspects of Young's game on both ends of the floor.
Let's start with the defense: It's bad. His below-average lateral quickness allowed him to get beaten off the bounce in college, and it will inevitably happen in the NBA.
And there's more than foot-speed concerns; Bleacher Report NBA Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman explains in the video below that Young also struggles with defensive awareness.
We touched on his ball-handling limitations and potential before, but it's worth reiterating that he needs to polish his off-hand and learn how to utilize screens. One NBA scout told Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears that Young has "no right hand" and "needs to learn how to come off screens."
Young won't likely carry too much of the offense as a rookie, because he's not quite versatile or polished enough to attack opponents in a variety of ways.
He will, however, serve as a capable rotational shooter who can stretch the floor and take advantage of open-floor driving opportunities. Don't expect him to put up robust stats, as he may not even make the All-Rookie Second Team.
Much like other upside-based prospects in the 2014 class, Young's long-term role depends on how much he's able to improve on both sides of the ball.
Upgrading his defensive alertness and footwork would help minimize his deficiencies in the quickness department. Meanwhile, a more confident and crisp right-handed dribble would expand his isolation options and make him a multidimensional asset.
If he can fortify these two areas, he could become a key player on his squad within two to three years and a potential star within four to five years. He might not play in multiple All-Star Games, but he'll be a top-tier wing in the league.