Trae Young is the best offensive player in college basketball in the last 25+ years.
Let that sink in.
In that time the game has seen the likes of Steph Curry, Buddy Hield, Jimmer Fredette, Adam Morrison, Glenn Robinson, and Doug McDermott – his current stats are better than all of theirs.
His combination of scoring and passing has never been seen before at the college level. Through 12 games, his 29.6 points per game ranks 4th over the last 25 years, just .7 PPG from the top spot. Even better, his 10.7 assists per game is the highest mark in college basketball over that time. That point production is unreal.
His xPP/G (expected points produced per game) of 54.7 points is the most by any player in the last 25 years - 8.3 points higher than the second highest player and 13 points more than Steph Curry in his best season at Davidson.
NBA executives are already salivating at the prospect of drafting Young. He’s the model guard in today’s game. What makes him so special?
He is a ridiculously efficient player
Since the analytics movement in the NBA, teams are striving to take more 3s and shots at the rim at the expense of mid-range jumpers (see the Houston Rockets). Trae Young has already exhibited elite shot selection at just 19 years old.
Just 4.1% of Young’s shots are mid-range attempts. The average D1 player shoots three times that amount at 12.8%. Young is Rocket-esque taking 94% of his shots from 3 or in the restricted area.
He has converted on these high percentage looks at an above average rate shooting 58% in the restricted area and 41% from 3, up 4% and 5% from the D1 average, respectively.
As good as his own shot selection is, he’s equally as good at creating efficient opportunities for his teammates. He does an excellent job setting them up with passes leading to the rim. Over 61% of his assists have resulted in baskets in the restricted area. The average D1 player attempts just 48% of his shots in this same area.
It should come as no surprise that all of this has translated to absurd on/off court ratings. Young has the highest offensive plus minus since Sports-Reference started estimating the metric in 2010.
Freakishly good in transition
According to Synergy, the Sooners are in transition 25.7% of the time – the 7th highest rate in the nation. Of the top 75 teams in transition rate, Oklahoma has the most efficient transition offense. This is a massive improvement from their rank as 198th in transition efficiency last season.
That’s the impact of Trae Young running the show in transition.
He leads the nation with 4.8 transition assists per game, partly because he makes a quick pass up the court. Most NCAA players in transition prefer to dribble the ball up and then make the pass after they cross half court. Not Trae Young. He takes 1-2 dribbles and throws a lead pass up to a streaking teammate.
Oklahoma Assistant Coach Carlin Hartman said, “For a guy that averages as many points as he does, he likes to throw the ball ahead to teammates for catch and shoot, catch and drive, and catch and finish opportunities. He is exceptional going vertical. He has tremendous inline speed and you always have to account for him pulling up to shoot.”
Transition opportunities are about speed and odd man advantages – earlier passes, like the ones Trae Young makes, increase the likelihood of converting on these possessions.
Range from the half court logo
Young has legitimate NBA 3-point range. That’s not how far he can shoot, that’s where he makes most of his 3s. Roughly 68% of his made 3s are estimated to be behind the NBA 3-point line.
He had the shooter reputation in AAU basketball even before playing at Oklahoma. Hartman added, “He came in with great shooting ability and range. Early on we were intent on having him shoot closer to the line. As time has gone on, he’s proven he can make them, so now we are more comfortable with those shots.”
Ball Screen Beast
The NBA continues to move toward more ball screen possessions and less isolation or “hero ball”. Players that can read and attack the ball screen at the collegiate level become extremely valuable and are highly coveted by NBA GMs.
Trae Young is 2nd in the nation in points per game using a ball screen, just behind Junior Robinson from Mount St. Mary’s. The ball screen has really helped him create space for his shot as 42% of his made 3s this season have come off of a ball screen.
Hartman raved, “His pace and feel you can’t really teach. It’s an innate ability. He is just tremendous off of ball screens. He sees how both defenders react to the screen and knows where everyone is on the floor. He can read all of that better than anyone I’ve seen, maybe ever.”