Kentucky small forward James Young could be a fit for the Pelicans if they trade back into the NBA Draft. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft Profiles: James Young

With news that the Pelicans are looking to trade into the NBA Draft coming this weekend to grab a small forward or center plenty of questions have been raised about the plan of the front office. Out of all of them though the most important seems to be which player, or players, have caught the eye of the front office enough to cause them to try to work themselves back into a pick. Instead of trying to guess exactly the player, Pelican Debrief has decided to just break down 18 small forwards and centers leading up to draft day (two reports will be posted daily) so that Pelicans fans will be ready no matter where or when the team trades into the draft and selects a player.  The project starts today with James Young, a small forward out of Kentucky. 

James Young is a very interesting prospect to many teams in the mid-lottery to late first round due in part to what he can become instead of what he is. Young was part of the super young Kentucky team that struggled throughout the NCAA season before turning things on in the NCAA Tournament and reaching the National Title Game where they ultimately fell to UConn. Young will be just 19 years old next season and some of his problems with Kentucky look like they could just be age induced. The range of outcomes for Young will be high but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him as an elite role player a few years down the line.

The Basics: 

Age: 18

College: Kentucky

Height: 6’7”

Weight: 213 lbs

Wingspan: 7′

Standing Reach: 8’8”

Max Vertical: 35.5

Stats: 40 games, 32.4 mpg, 14.3 ppg, 40.7 FG%, 34.9 3PT%, 70.6 FT%, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.2 bpg

Draft Projections: Late lottery to mid-first round


Young has a few strengths but the one that sticks out the most is his youth. At the start of next season Young will be just a few months removed from his 19th birthday, giving teams a player that still has a lot of room to grow. Young, inexpensive role players are one of the most cost efficient assets in today’s NBA so having Young come off his rookie deal at just 22 years old (if both options are picked up) is a big deal.

There are plenty of strengths in Young that are on court related though, starting with his jumper. Young has a quick release that combined with his length allows him to get his shot up over most defenders without an issue. According to DraftExpress, Young shot 45 percent on his open spot up attempts last season for Kentucky a solid number for a player who took an average of 5.4 threes per game. Young’s rage comes easy to him as well, meaning that a transition to the NBA three-point line shouldn’t be an issue for him.

Adding to Young’s shooting is his athletic abilities. Young is a long, lean, smooth athlete that is capable of more than just shooting the ball. Against UConn in the National Title game he unleashed a monster dunk over two defenders that was one of the best individual plays of the tournament. He won’t beat anyone in a foot race but it isn’t hard to see Young using the athletic gifts he has to become an average to above average defender, especially considering he is a pretty good rebounder for his position.


While youth is one of the things that Young has going for him it is also contributes to one of his biggest problems: decision-making. For as good a shooter as he is Young struggled to make shots last season as his 40.7 field goal percentage shows. The biggest reasoning for this was Young’s propensity to dribble himself into contested jumpers instead of making the right pass or taking a shot when it was originally open.

Young also struggles a bit with ball-handling duties, though he wasn’t asked to do it a ton at Kentucky who had the Harrison twins do most of the offensive initiation. Young won’t be breaking down defenses with his dribbling next season but the potential to improve is there. The lack of creation ability led to part of Young’s decision-making problems as he wasn’t able to create enough space to get himself clean looks but he shot anyway. An improvement in ball-handling should make life much easier for Young on offense.

Finally Young struggled defensively, especially for a college player with his length and wingspan. Like many young players Young struggled to grasp defensive rotations at times and had issues at points staying focused on that end. Young won’t ever been a lockdown type defender due to his lack of foot speed but it isn’t hard to see him as at least average at that end once he becomes more engaged and learns the intricacies of a team defensive system, especially with a shot blocker to protect him.

Projected Role: Young won’t be much more than a shooting specialist next season but if everything breaks right he looks like he has the chance to be a really good 3-and-D wing with the offensive side of the ball being his strong suit.

Information for this post was found at Young’s DX scouting report can be found here. 

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