When the Boston Celtics selected James Young with the 17th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, expectations were high.
Young, then 18 years old, was coming off an impressive season at Kentucky in which he helped lead the Wildcats to a National Title Game appearance. He was known for his smooth stroke and solid feel for the game offensively. At the time, it appeared that he had a wealth of potential and could end up being one of the drafts biggest steals.
Well, here we are two years later, and boy, have the narratives changed. Young has gone from a promising young prospect to a guy who may not even make the Celtics roster heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
As a matter of fact, one might say that it’s even likely Young will be gone before the season starts. Remember: you can only have 15 players on an NBA roster, and with Boston’s current group, he might get squeezed.
The fact that Boston went out and signed Gerald Green this summer was an ominous sign right there and then. Young will likely be fighting with R.J. Hunter for the final roster spot, and from an outsider’s perspective, Hunter would seem to have the edge.
While Hunter is actually a year older than Young, he has only a year of NBA experience under his belt. Young has two and has shown absolutely no improvement since coming into the league.
Hunter at least seems to have a clue in terms of what to do defensively. Actually, Hunter projects to be a solid defender due to his length and ability to disrupt passing lanes. Young is still a lost cause on that end of the floor, and he has done nothing offensively to warrant his lack of awareness on the defensive side.
In 29 games last season, Young shot just 30.6 percent from the field, making just 23.1 percent of his three-point attempts. That’s beyond brutal for anyone, let alone a guy who is terrible defensively.
Of course, there is still time for Young to improve. He is only 21 years old, and to be fair, hasn’t really gotten much of a chance to prove himself with the C’s. He hasn’t seen much floor time in the NBA, spending the majority of his two-year tenure either on the bench or in the D-League.
That being said, there is a reason for that.
Marcus Smart was drafted the same year as Young, and he immediately received heavy minutes. Two years later, Smart is an integral piece of the Celtics and one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
Terry Rozier was drafted the following summer, and while he was not exactly a key member of Boston’s rotation last season, he was thrust into action during the playoffs and actually looked comfortable. Entering 2016-17, most expect Rozier to see regular playing time, even if it’s only around 10 minutes per game.
Clearly, Young hasn’t done enough to show head coach Brad Stevens and Celtics brass that he is worthy of playing time. Unfortunately for the former Wildcat, Boston is in win-now mode, and while developing its young players is also a priority, the C’s want to start contending. If said young players aren’t producing, they aren’t going to play. It’s that simple.
So, what will the C’s do with Young?
Well, unless he somehow earns a roster spot, they could trade him. He would obviously have very limited value, but perhaps some team would surrender a second-round pick to take a chance on him. If not, the Celtics will just release him.
Someone would almost certainly pick Young up if that happened, but it almost surely wouldn’t be a playoff team. I could see a team like the Philadelphia 76ers or Sacramento Kings taking a chance on him.
It goes without saying that nothing has actually happened yet. Young is still with Boston, and no decision has been made at this time. But think about it: would the C’s cut someone like Jordan Mickey or Demetrius Jackson? Doubtful.
Mickey is an athletic shot-blocker who projects to guard multiple positions, something that is incredibly valuable in the NBA. Jackson is a rookie guard whom the Celtics handed a guaranteed deal. Sure, he’ll probably spend most of 2016-17 in the D-League, but would Boston cut him ahead of that? Probably not, because it just doesn’t make sense.
That leaves Hunter and Young, and again, Hunter seems to be ahead in terms of the learning curve right now and can actually play NBA minutes without significantly hurting his team. The same cannot be said for Young at the current point in time.
Perhaps Young will develop into the player we all thought he would some time down the line, or maybe he will simply turn into a useful three-point sniper off the bench.
But Boston can’t keep waiting for that to happen, and a decision has to be made soon.