Could Trae Young and Dennis Smith Jr. Coexist in Dallas?

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08: Trae Young #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners drives on Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans in an 85-83 Sooner win during the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center on December 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08: Trae Young #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners drives on Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans in an 85-83 Sooner win during the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at Staples Center on December 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Oklahoma University freshman point guard Trae Young has had a historic start to the season. I will examine which of his skills will and will not translate to the next level.

If you’re a fan of the college game, you have undoubtedly heard of Trae Young by now. Young leads the nation in both scoring and assists per game, a feat that has never been accomplished before in NCAA history. Trae Young has some serious game and has the look of a top prospect.

Young is 6’2″ with a 6’4″ wingspan and weighs around 180 lbs. Because of his lack of elite athleticism or length, he unfortunately draws a lot of Jimmer Fredette comparisons. Young’s doubters often point to the former BYU shooting savant as evidence for why he will be just a flash in the pan. To those people I say…

Trae Young is not Jimmer Fredette. Trae Young’s game is no flash in the pan. Doubt Trae Young at your own risk.

The key to success for any NBA player is to develop an elite skill or multiple skills. This is why so many players can make it in the league despite having indisputable flaws in their game. Tony Allen never learned to shoot, Kyle Korver can’t create his own shot off the dribble, and DeAndre Jordan can’t score unless he’s within 5 feet of the basket. The ability to be elite at many things is what separates the superstars from the longtime contributors.

Trae Young is already an elite shooter and has shown enough to suggest he either is or could be an elite passer and ball-handler. His basketball IQ is noticeably high for an 18-year-old, not unlike European sensation Luka Doncic.

Young rarely makes the wrong play with the ball in his hands. For someone whose offense it basically totally reliant on him, the freshman does a tremendous job of taking care of the ball. He has shown the ability to thread the needle and make passes that many great point guards would not even attempt. To illustrate this point, check out the difficult pass he makes in the video below:

Two important things to watch for to predict if a college player’s shooting will translate to the NBA are shooting mechanics and range. The defense gets tighter, the players are longer resulting in better shot-contention, and the three point line is further back.

Young has really good mechanics, and for the most part, he gets the ball out high and fast. He also regularly attempts deep threes and displays an ability to convert from NBA range. The play below depicts both his tight mechanics and his ability to hit from deep:

Trae Young is an extremely advanced-level ball handler for his age, a skill that is often overlooked and taken for granted by basketball fans. Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving have shown that superb handles can lead to increased opportunities for themselves and teammates. Here Young shows off a Shammgod move (named for its creator legendary Mavericks ball handling coach God Shammgod), a dribble move that many NBA point guards are still unable to master:

I won’t harp long on his weaknesses but he does have some. As is the case with most young players, his defense is not near NBA level at this point. His lack of burst and athleticism could prevent him from ever becoming a plus defender and could result in separation issues on offense. If Young cannot create space from his defender then his shooting and passing could be greatly neutralized.

So how would Young fit on a Rick Carlisle coached team? Could Trae Young and Dennis Smith Jr. effectively coexist in Dallas? Could a two point guard system possibly work on either ends?

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First things first, any suggestions of trading Dennis Smith Jr. to make room for drafting Young are blasphemous and I will not hear them. Smith has shown he has all-star potential and shipping him out would be equally unlikely as it would be downright loony.

Offensively, I think it would work. Trae Young would fit in perfectly to Rick Carlisle’s flow offense because of his ability to stretch the floor and his skills and willingness as a passer. Carlisle has often played with an attacking score-first guard (Smith) paired with a pass-first deep threat to promote ball movement and spacing (Young). Think about it; Terry and Kidd, Monta and Calderon, Barea and Harris.

Carlisle is known to play three and even four guard lineups more than any other coach in the league. Think about how often we’ve seen three of Barea, Harris, Smith, and Yogi share the floor at the same time this season. If there is any coach in the league who would be willing to take a chance on committing to two franchise point guards, it’s probably Carlisle.

But is that a worthwhile experiment? Teams with big shooting guards would be matchup nightmares for the team defensively.

Also, we’re not sure how Dennis Smith Jr. will develop on that end of the floor just yet. He has shown the potential to be a great defensive player but elite athleticism doesn’t necessarily translate to great defense, look at Russell Westbrook for example. Westbrook is considered more of a hinderance than a help on that side of the floor despite being one of the most explosive athletes in the NBA.

If both Smith and Young turned out to be poor defenders (the ladder probably more likely than the former), then it’s hard to see the Mavericks being a good enough defensive team to eventually contend for a championship. No matter how adept they became at putting the ball into the hoop.

For that reason, Young would be bumped down my board slightly. However, I would not rule out selecting him all together. I am a fan of taking a guy if you think he is an elite talent and figuring out the rest later, especially for teams in the midst of a rebuild. What if Philadelphia never drafted Joel Embiid because they had previously taken Nerlens Noel?

There is no way I am taking Young over Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr., or Marvin Bagley even though he could possibly belong in that group talent-wise. I’d also probably rather have guys at positions of need like Mohammed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., and some others, but Young’s name at least belongs in the discussion in that pick 5-10 range.

Next: Nerlens Noel Involved in Trade Discussions with the Lakers

A Trae Young and Dennis Smith Jr. pairing would be nothing short of unorthodox, but sometimes the best way to get ahead in this league is to zig when everyone else is zagging.