2018 NBA Draft: Lottery Teams That Can Unlock Trae Young's Superstar Potential
His upside casts him as a possible Stephen Curry clone. That sounds outlandish, until you consider the 19-year-old spent his lone season of college ball becoming the first player—let alone true freshman—to pace the nation in both points (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game.
But Young's basement paints him as something like the next Jimmer Fredette. Young is a much better passer than Fredette, but there are still similar concerns about his lack of length and athleticism, which could prevent him from creating separation on offense or providing any discernible value on defense.
Young's risk/reward scenarios explain how, despite his production, he's hardly a lock for the early portion of the lottery. That boom-or-bust potential also speaks to the importance that Young land in the right situation.
Each of the following five clubs—all selecting in Young's realistic draft range—have the need, opportunity and supporting cast to increase the odds of realizing his superstar potential.
Lottery Pick: No. 3
At first glance, point guard doesn't appear to be an obvious need for the Atlanta Hawks. Not when the position is already manned by Dennis Schroder, their top scorer and distributor who's signed through 2020-21.
But talent trumps team needs at this stage of the rebuilding process. The Hawks are so future-focused that part of the reason Lloyd Pierce impressed their brass was his experience with #TheProcess in Philadelphia.
Besides, Schroder might not be long for Atlanta after discussing other places he'd like to play. Even if he stays, he's not a big enough obstacle to prevent the Hawks from nabbing Young if he's their best player available.
Theirs was a bottom-five offense last season, which you probably guessed since Schroder was its most potent weapon. The Hawks could wind up leaning on Young almost as much as Oklahoma did.
His defensive concerns don't look like deal-breakers. Not when this organization is starving for an energizer—no club did worse at the gates—and might have enough versatile defenders to hide Young more often than not.
Lottery Pick: No. 6
The Orlando Magic have had three 20-points-per-game scorers in the 2000s. Two are retired (Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis), and the other (Dwight Howard) is four teams removed from his central Florida stint.
Finding an offensive fulcrum should be an obvious focus. So, too, should be beefing up at point guard, since D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack (non-guaranteed salary for 2018-19) made up the position's rotation by campaign's end.
Why not let Young try to scratch both itches? It'd be the same setup with which new head coach Steve Clifford found moderate success for the Charlotte Hornets and another under-the-rim scoring lead guard in Kemba Walker.
Despite finishing last season 25th in offensive efficiency, Orlando didn't look like a lost cause at that end. It has plenty of serviceable or better complementary pieces; they just need a No. 1 option to complement. Evan Fournier fits as a secondary playmaker, Nikola Vucevic is close to becoming a legitimate stretch 5, and the list of athletic pick-and-roll partners is extensive.
If the Magic bring back restricted free agent Aaron Gordon, they could have a three-headed defensive monster up front with him, Jonathan Isaac and Bismack Biyombo. That insurance would allow Young to defend more aggressively than he did as a Sooner.
Lottery Pick: No. 7
Impressive as Kris Dunn's sophomore season was, it shouldn't stop the Chicago Bulls from considering Young.
Their 28th-ranked attack needs more creators. Young's creativity conjures memories of Steve Nash's on-ball wizardry. Head coach Fred Hoiberg's perimeter-based system (sixth in three-point attempts) requires more marksmen (21st in percentage). Young's range and volume (3.7 triples per contest) elicit Curry comparisons.
Young might simultaneously be this draft class' best shooter and its best playmaker. How could the star-starved Bulls pass that up? It shouldn't be difficult to find ways to maximize the impacts of him, Dunn and Zach LaVine.
"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," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "Without a wing, the Bulls could also play a three-guard lineup using LaVine, or they could experiment with LaVine or Dunn as a sixth man."
The Bulls would have no qualms about taking another point guard and "appear enamored with Young," NBC Sports Chicago's Vincent Goodwill reported. There might be mutual interest from Young, who could fill needs, fits the timeline and would improve his efficiency with more scoring help.
Lottery Pick: No. 8 (via Brooklyn Nets)
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a prominent job opening. They just don't know whether it's for LeBron James' sidekick or his replacement.
Either way, Young could encounter favorable conditions.
James has referred to Young as "a very special player," and—if James stays in Cleveland—he would surely welcome the offensive assistance. James, who turned 33 in December, played 82 games for the first time in his career and led the Association in minutes (3,026). He had only one teammate who averaged double figures during the postseason—Kevin Love, who also shot 39.2 percent.
"Some scouts believe [Young is] the most skilled player in the draft, pound-for-pound, and would be a terrific piece to put in place regardless of what LeBron James decides to do in July," SI.com's Jeremy Woo wrote. "The Cavs have had a hole at point guard since dealing Kyrie Irving, and Young's playmaking ability and three-point shooting are both viewed as elite skills."
If James bolts, Young would become the most interesting player on the roster.
It's hard to say how much help he'd have since Cleveland could take a hatchet to the team in an effort to trim costs. That said, there's a decent chance he'd be part of a young nucleus that includes Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, Jordan Clarkson and possibly restricted free agent Rodney Hood.
New York Knicks
Lottery Pick: No. 9
Between Young's flair, theatrics and unwavering confidence, he seems well-suited to withstand the pressure of the Empire State. That's how he sees it, too.
While the megamarket could help boost his brand, the New York Knicks would also offer an inviting basketball situation.
They could give him the starting point guard spot on opening night. It already looks like Frank Ntilikina might work best as a secondary playmaker, plus his defensive versatility would help minimize Young's primary weakness.
The Knicks could also give Young a featured offensive role without putting too much on his plate.
They need his perimeter prowess (they were 29th in threes per game) and off-the-dribble scoring (27th in points off drives), and he could use the scoring assistance of a healthy Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. Young was a one-man army at Oklahoma, registering an absurd 37.1 usage percentage, per Sports Reference—a mark only Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson have cleared in the NBA during the 2000s.
"In many ways, the Knicks and Young would be a perfect match," Bleacher Report's Yaron Weitzman wrote.
Young might have his warts, but the combination of his upside and New York's need for a second star should ensure the potential reward outweighs the risk.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.