Ask any prospect during the pre-draft process, especially ones projected to go in the high lottery, and they’ll probably tell you they’re the best player in the draft. Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who is expected to be one of the first 10 players off the board on Thursday night, is no exception. Whether he’s right or not in that assessment remains to be seen, but at the very least, Young can lay claim to another title: the draft’s most polarizing player.
Besides, he doesn’t particularly care about being the best player selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. Instead, Young’s goals are much more lofty.
“I think I’m the best player in this draft,” Young said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago in May. “But my goal isn’t to be the best player in this draft. My goal is to be the best player in the NBA. That’s what I’m focusing on.”
Whether or not Young ever gets there, it’s no longer unthinkable for a player of his archetype to be in that conversation. That’s one way in which this newly-minted Golden State Warriors dynasty has changed the game. Thanks to Steph Curry, undersized three-point shooters can now be viewed among the very best players in the league. Curry’s impact is impossible to replicate — it’s no longer arguable that he’s the best shooter the sport has ever seen.
But his impact on younger players has been impossible to ignore, and Young is one of the first post-Curry prospects in that mold since the start of this Warriors run. Coming off a freshman campaign in which he looked like the best scoring guard in college basketball history at times, how Young adapts to bigger players and tougher defenses at the NBA level will be the first true test of whether the Curry model is replicable beyond that one-of-a-kind specimen.
“I love the comparisons,” Young says of talk that he’s the next Curry. “He’s a two-time MVP and a champion. But I feel like I bring a lot of things from different players’ games to the table. I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young that I can be. That’s all that matters to me.”
There are reasons to believe Young will be able to fulfill that promise, just like there are reasons to be skeptical. He’s a skilled ballhandler who possesses the ability to pick apart a defense with his passing in addition to his shooting prowess. On his best nights, he’s completely unstoppable due to his ability to score from anywhere on the floor and make plays.