Joe Young made his D-League debut for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this weekend, completing a two-game assignment. The Mad Ants held on against the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday by a score of 99-96, after coming up short against the Iowa Energy the night before, 110-103.
Having only appeared in seven games for the Pacers this season, Young showed some signs of rust as he worked to build chemistry on-the-go with his new teammates. Fortunately, the lack of regular playing time did not seem to have an adverse effect on his shooting touch. In 35 minutes per game, he averaged 22.0 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 50.0 percent three.
Yet, in limited sample size, it was evident that Young's floor game still needs to catch up to his scoring ability. Against the Iowa Energy, he committed seven turnovers, all of which were the product of either a bad pass or lost ball. The University of Oregon alum has a tendency to leave his feet before the ball leaves his hands, a recipe for either a turnover or shot-clock consuming deflection.
He also made a few errant attempts to split screens, which resulted in him losing the ball. But as a scorer, Young picked up where he left off at the Orlando Pro Summer League: Getting buckets.
The second-round draft pick put the ball through the hoop in a variety of ways, predominantly knocking down smooth, rhythm jump shots (no matter off the catch or the dribble). With under 30 seconds to play against the Grand Rapids Drive, Young used a screen set by Rakeem Christmas to get to the rim, making it a two possession game.
Over the two game stint, Young racked up 70 minutes of play time, nearly 30 minutes more than he has played this season with the Pacers.
"Joe's got an opportunity, where if he stays with us he's not going to get much practice time and he's not in the current rotation," head coach Frank Vogel explained to Fox Sports Indiana's Jeremiah Johnson. "...so it is very difficult to stay sharp, to stay in shape, let alone to develop as a young player."
Young, 6-foot-1, needs to consistently demonstrate his ability as a capable passer if he is going to work his way into the Pacers' 10-man rotation at the backup point guard position. The best place for him to refine those skills as well as his ball-handling is in Fort Wayne, where he is going to earn regular minutes.
Comparably, Rakeem Christmas was named Performer of the Week for games played from November 30 through December 6. Since returning from a rib injury, Shayne Whittington is averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 rebounds and has recorded three double-doubles. For both players, utilizing the D-League as a training ground has expedited, or, at the very least, furthered their development. The same could end up being said for Joe Young.
The Pacers announced Monday that they have recalled the second-round draft pick from their affiliate. The next time the Mad Ants play on an off-night for their parent club is at home on December 22, against the Reno Bighorns, so the possibility remains that Indiana could re-assign Young to the D-League moving forward, if they see fit.