Shooting guard James Young has had a tough time of things as a member of the Boston Celtics. On the plus side, despite piddling returns in prior seasons, Young made the team out of the preseason over the likes of former first-round pick R.J. Hunter.
Young was the 17th overall pick in the 2014 draft; Hunter went 28th the following year. They were similar players, fitting the 3-and-D mold of wings in today’s NBA. While Hunter is probably the better shooter, Young is the better athlete, and thus, has (or had) the higher upside.
Less than two weeks into the 2016-17 regular season though, Boston already announced that it will not be picking up Young’s fourth-year option. Has his athletic ceiling declined that quickly? Is the team admitting it made a mistake in keeping Young this season? Most likely, this was going to happen no matter what. The Celtics have too many “assets” and are up against a roster crunch each offseason at this point. That is the outcome of having all these draft picks and not being able to flip two or three small pieces for a star. Instead of turning the assets into value, Boston is forced to jettison players when they don’t immediately pan out.
If Young is going to pan out though, he is sure taking his sweet time showing it. As a rookie, he displayed little of the athleticism and scoring punch that Celtics fans expected from him. In his second season, he somehow got worse, or at least was given even less of a chance to perform. He played 332 minutes as a rookie; that figure dropped all the way to 199 minutes as a second-year player as he struggled to shoot from pretty much everywhere.
In this, his third season in the NBA, Boston has yet to throw him on the court through a few games. This, despite early minor injuries to Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas that could have opened up minutes for another guard. Instead, Terry Rozier has passed Young by on the substitution rotation; as has veteran Gerald Green. There doesn’t appear to be space left for him.
That’s not necessarily a surprise for a guy who was arguably the 15th man out of the preseason. It is kind of surprising for a former top 20 pick to have been given so little playing time in two-plus seasons in the league though.
People will point to the contract size as a reason to bring him back just for the sake of it. At $2.8 million, it’s worth the risk that he eventually gets it. However, the money is not the issue, it is the roster spot. The Celtics and Danny Ainge will continue to collect assets until a big move comes their way. James Young doesn’t add anything to that plan, and his presence next season could actually end up being detrimental. Hence the decision to part ways after the season.
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