By Michael Kinney
Trae Young knows what he brings to the table. So when the former Oklahoma point guard makes a statement that there is no player like him in this year’s draft, he means it.
“It means everything, courtside, on the court, off the court. Being able to attract fans, attract people,” Young said. “As far as on the court, make my teammates better, my overall skill set, you know, shoot the ball, spread the floor, but also be able to get in the lane, get my teammates involved, stuff like that.”
The 2018 draft is set to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in New York City. Young, who has resided in Los Angeles since declaring for the draft, flew out to NYC Monday morning to prepare for the event. The Norman North graduate will be on hand at the Barkclay Center with a handful of other players who are expected to be drafted in the first round. Young is projected to be a top-10 lottery pick.
However, there is no consensus on where Young will land. NBA.com has him going No. 4 to Memphis while CBS Sports has Orlando taking him at No. 6.
At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Young may be the smallest of the elite players in the draft, but his game fits into the new NBA. In his one season at Oklahoma, Young averaged 27.4 points and 8.8 assists. He also shot over 36 percent from 3-point range. Of his 261 field goal made, 118 were from behind the arc.
In 17 games with the Sooners, he hoisted up double-digits shots from 3-point range. He also had 11 games where he handed out at least 10 assists.
“A potent perimeter shooter and playmaker, Young displayed, and more importantly sustained, serious ability as the fulcrum of Oklahoma’s offense,” said Sport’s Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo. “His deep shooting range and intelligent use of ball screens open up room for his creative dribble penetration, and turning the Sooners into an elite offensive team for a large stretch of the season was no small feat.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Young visited only a few teams for individual workouts. They included Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago and New York. As of right now, they have the No. 3, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 9 picks in the draft.
“Going out to different teams, it’s been a very busy few weeks just flying different places,” Young said. “Luckily I put myself in a good situation where I only had to work out for a few teams. I just got in and worked out and meet just the whole staff, had dinner with them and everything. I mean that was good.”
Young has also had meetings with other teams, including Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland.
According to Young, each team that has shown an interest in him all have pretty much approached him in the same way.
“It wasn’t necessarily asking me a bunch of questions, really just wanted to get to know me,” Young said. “Because they know they have a high pick, they want to know who they’re drafting because when you’re picking this high you don’t want to miss. They’re picking people and they want them to be a part of this franchise. They want to get to know me and stuff like that. That’s really all that it really was.”
For Young’s part, his main objective during the workouts and informal meetings was to convey to the teams on why he should be their top pick.
“Just let them know how much of a team player I am, a competitor,” Young said. “Someone who’s going to come out and compete for his teammates. Just someone who’s an ultimate winner. That’s my main thing. They know what I can do. They know what I’m capable of doing on the court. I wanted to give them a little piece of how I think the game, little things about my mindset and everything.”
Until Young’s name is called Thursday, his future is still up in the air. The 19-year old could land on a rebuilding team, a possible contender, a small market franchise looking for a foundation to build on or a big market needing a star.
Regardless of where Young ends up, he says he is ready for whatever comes next.
“I dreamed of it. You ask me a year ago if I wanted to do this in a year, I would tell you that I’m going work my butt off to get to this point,” Young said. “But you never know. All I can do is focus and control what I can control. That was just playing and trying to do whatever it takes to help my team win. Ultimately that got me to this point. I envisioned it, I dreamed of it, but now that it’s reality … my dreams all come true on Thursday. It’s definitely something that is a blessing.”