Best Fits and Realistic Landing Spots for Trae Young in 2018 NBA Draft
Oklahoma's Trae Young has declared for the NBA draft, and teams have started to do their homework to find out more about the nation's leading scorer and assist man. Young's father, Rayford Young, told Bleacher Report he's already been contacted by some teams looking to learn more about his son.
The Young family explored the possibility of returning to Oklahoma with the goal of winning National Player of the Year in 2019, but Young was adamant about starting the predraft process. He'll instead focus on strengthening his body to be in the best shape for draft workouts.
He's expected to generate interest from teams that select in the mid-to-late lottery. A few franchises likely to pick in that range could use an upgrade at point guard. That bodes well for Young, whose rocky second half of the season raised concerns about the possibility he could slip in the draft.
The following five teams (expected to pick in Young's projected draft range) jump out as the best fits for both parties.
Current projected lottery spot: No. 7 (via Brooklyn Nets)
Young's efficiency plummeted over the second half of the year, partly due to opponents' ability to game-plan around him. They didn't have to worry about his weak supporting cast.
In Cleveland, assuming the Cavaliers don't gut their roster, Young wouldn't draw nearly as much attention from defenses, nor would he have to force as many tough shots or drives. He'd be able to let the game come to him, the way it has for Jayson Tatum with the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers could use an additional playmaker, and LeBron James expressed his support for Young in February. Plus, Young's father told Bleacher Report he remains in contact with his good friend Tyronn Lue.
Cleveland could take it slow with Young, possibly letting him play to his strengths as an offensive spark in a sixth-man role. Eventually, Young could work his way toward replacing George Hill as the starting point guard.
Gaining early playoff experience wouldn't hurt either.
Current projected lottery spot: No. 8
Kris Dunn's bounce-back season has been admirable, but his injury history remains tough to ignore, he's still shooting 32.1 percent from three and the Chicago Bulls rank No. 28 in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.com.
Passing on Trae Young will be difficult.
Chicago offers him a young, promising core with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Dunn. Plus, the Bulls have the New Orleans Pelicans' first-round pick and no scary long-term contracts.
The Bulls could mix up their lineup with Young, a scoring playmaker who has trouble defensively, and Dunn, a tough defender who struggles to score efficiently. Without a wing, the Bulls could also play a three-guard lineup using LaVine, or they could they experiment with LaVine or Dunn as a sixth man.
Either way, the Bulls need another weapon in the lineup. Young would add needed firepower to a rotation that relies on Markkanen and LaVine, who's shooting 38.3 percent following his return from ACL surgery.
With young talent, a wide-open East, cap room and no pressure to carry the team, Chicago could be an attractive landing spot for Young.
New York Knicks
Current projected lottery spot: No. 9 overall
The New York Knicks need a spark. Trae Young would step in as the immediate starting point guard, likely alongside Frank Ntilikina, who we're finding out may be better suited to play the 2 as a secondary playmaker.
Even with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks could use an additional shot-creator. Whether or not you believe Young's volume scoring will carry over to the NBA, the Knicks should value his ability to make things happen off the dribble.
They rank No. 29 in the league in drives per game and points off drives, and their 0.78 points per possession off pick-and-rolls is tied for the fourth-fewest. Young would give the Knicks a new, needed dimension of scoring and playmaking from the backcourt.
Ntilikina would help ease some of the concerns over Young's defense given his defensive upside and versatility to guard ball-handlers and wings.
Los Angeles Clippers
Current projected lottery spot: No. 12 (via Detroit Pistons) and No. 14
The Los Angeles Clippers need a point guard, and they could have two lottery picks to find one.
In L.A., Young would step right into a spotlight role with veterans like Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley. Even if DeAndre Jordan leaves in free agency, the Clippers would still have talent at positions 1-4, plus cap room and another notable rookie from the 2018 draft.
Young would have an opportunity to play big minutes right away without the immediate expectations of having to lead the Clippers deep into the playoffs.
A Young-Williams duo could put heavy pressure on defenses with their quickness and potent scoring ability.
San Antonio Spurs
Current projected lottery spot: No. 22 (tied)
The San Antonio Spurs could be drafting earlier than usual after losing 11 of 18 games since February 1. Though Dejounte Murray had been pegged as their point guard of the future, the Spurs could reconsider if Young is available.
Murray, who averages 2.8 assists to 1.7 turnovers and shoots 29.6 percent from three, could be better suited in a different role.
Given San Antonio's track record with developing young prospects, Young would seem to benefit from going to such a stable organization. He'd also give the Spurs a more natural passer and shooter at the lead guard position.
The Spurs' 0.80 PPP out of pick-and-rolls ranks No. 25 in the league. They sit No. 18 in offensive efficiency. Eleven of the 12 teams below them are projected to pick in the lottery. Plus, San Antonio's No. 2 defense could help mask Young's struggles at that end.
Targeting Young and convincing Tony Parker (who was similarly limited physically and athletically) to return as his mentor could be a win-win for everyone.