Bleacher Report currently has Kentucky Wildcats guard-forward James Young (6'6", 215 pounds) projected to be taken No. 24 overall in the 2014 NBA draft by the Charlotte Bobcats via Portland (subject to change).
The 18-year-old freshman from Rochester, Mich., has averaged 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game this season.
His draft stock slipped outside the lottery during the latter portion of the regular season and into the SEC tournament, but in his last three NCAA tourney games, he's 13-of-24 from the field (54 percent). Young's lethal outside shooting helped fuel Big Blue Nation particularly against Wichita State and Michigan, as he hit three triples in each game.
With the Final Four star potentially turning pro this summer, it's time to take a head-to-toe look at what he brings to the table:
Strengths: Size, Shooting and Slashing
Call them the "Three S's."
Young possesses a triumvirate of traits that scouts love to see in a potential NBA wing. He may not be able to utilize each of them fully yet, but he shows intriguing promise.
His 6'6" height is greatly enhanced by a massive 6'11" wingspan*, which means he'll bring superb size to the shooting guard position at the next level, along with enough length to compete at small forward.
In college, he's been able to shoot over opponents on the perimeter and finish over them in the paint. It's clear that his frame will allow him to produce as a shooter and driver in the Association. In addition, his ranginess should permit him to adequately defend as well, provided he asserts himself on every possession.
His reach allows him to make plays like this one, where he stretched above the crowd to cram home an alley-oop against Louisville in the Sweet 16:
Offensively, he looks the part of a long-range threat at the next level.
More than half (53.5 percent) of his field-goal attempts in 2013-14 are three-pointers, according to Hoop-math.com. That doesn't reflect well on the diversity of his game, which we'll discuss later, but it does show that he's confident from beyond the arc.
Young is a smooth southpaw catch-and-shoot weapon, and when he gets in a groove, he's arguably the most dangerous player on the Wildcats. The streakiness works the other way, of course, as he's had some sour shooting performances this season.
His 35 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc shouldn't be considered a red flag because he's taken a high volume of triples as a freshman and will undoubtedly get better as his NBA career progresses. ESPN's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) noted that, despite the less-than-efficient mark, "Young's shot doesn't look broken" by any means.
As a slasher, Young has provided scouts with some flashes of brilliance. He hasn't consistently driven the ball all year, but when he has, he's shown the ability to use a couple of dribbles and his long strides to get to the bucket.
Once he gets near the rim, his athleticism and coordination regularly allow him to score or draw a foul. Young favors his left hand for swooping drives, but he can also use his right hand to create mid-range jumpers when necessary.
This dribble-drive department is something NBA scouts are excited for him to expand moving forward.
Weaknesses: Offensive Creativity, Shooting Efficiency and Defense
One of the biggest reasons for Young's offensive inconsistency (10 games of single-digit scoring) is his lack of advanced offensive moves. That brings us back to the fact that less than half of his field-goal attempts come inside the arc.
While he can hit shots from anywhere, he doesn't yet have the ball-handling skills to make those shooting opportunities possible. Most of his off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers and floaters come via perimeter pump-fakes and quick step-ins.
Scouts would like to see an increased ability to shake his man and generate his own offense. This early-season question-mark still hangs over Young.
At this stage, Young can't break defenders down laterally via crossovers or in-and-out dribbles, and his hesitation move isn't deceptive enough. More importantly, he's not completely comfortable with his right hand, which somewhat handicaps his productivity.
This lack of top-tier polish hurts his chances to be a featured scoring option at the next level, but he's exhibited enough shooting and slashing to keep himself safely in the first round.
About that shooting: The delivery looks promising, but he must become more consistent and efficient at the next level. A 35 percent clip from the college line won't translate to the NBA.
We're confident that he'll become an accomplished shooter, it's just a matter of him letting things come to him. He must sharpen his form as much as possible, improve his shot selection and avoid forcing shots or pressing too hard offensively.
Young himself knows that when he strays from a regular motion, things go awry. He discussed the issue with Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News: "It’s just, I try to switch up my form sometimes. That’s what throws off my shot."
Lastly, defense has been a weakness for Young more than Kentucky fans would like this season. He's made some lapses as a transition defender, which is inexcusable, and he's been burned too often against high-caliber playmakers. In addition, he's been out of position as a weakside helper on several occasions.
Someone with his physical tools should be more effective on that end of the floor, as he plucks only 0.9 steals per 40 minutes. Young demonstrates poor judgement from a positioning standpoint, as he's often too worried about sticking with his man. As a result, he gets beaten by both his man and other drivers throughout a given game.
It's going to take a lot of intense training and time for him to become dependable in that area.
NBA Role and Draft Outlook
For much of the year, Young was viewed as an elite prospect just outside of the high-lottery group. His size and potential are exciting, but it's become evident that he doesn't have enough all-around firepower to warrant a top-10 selection. NBA executives want a standout player or preferably a star with their top-10 pick, and he doesn't give teams enough assurance.
That being said, Young could develop into a fluid secondary scorer on the right team, given his shooting promise and slashing potential. His length on the wing will match up favorably against most teams, so he'll be able to fill the hoop up as a role player.
When he enters the Association, he's probably going to struggle to earn playing time simply because he's raw. If he improves his handle and becomes more efficient on both ends, he could become a third or fourth scoring option within a few years.
Ultimately, Young's 6'11" wingspan, above-average athleticism and long-range upside will earn looks from mid-first round teams. I'd be surprised if he was taken somewhere outside of the 15-25 range.
*Wingspan measurement from DraftExpress.com
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR
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