Joe Young had lofty goals headed into the 2016-17 season. He wanted to average 4-5 steals per game (something no one else — not even Alvin Robertson (2.71), Michael Jordan (2.35), or John Stockton (2.17) —- has ever done), and he aspired to become a Top-5 point guard (something that 25 starting point guards currently are not). This sort of logic, however, did not stop him from trying.
“When I heard that LeBron was getting up at 5:30 - 6:00 (AM),” Young told Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth of the thought process behind his rigorous offseason training regimen. “I was like, ‘You know what, let me get up an extra hour before LeBron.’”
Summer 16 put a big bag of lays on my shoulder!! Can't sleep at all. pic.twitter.com/XWjcDGgu8F— Joe Young (@JoeyBuckets3) August 26, 2016
For two months straight, the self-confident guard got to the gym by 4:30 AM, watched film, and worked out three times per day. Yet, after struggling to scrape together minutes even when Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey were simultaneously sidelined for a stretch in December, he ended up appearing in eight fewer games than he did during his rookie season.
How did Joe Young impress?
While the 24-year-old’s use of his energy is sometimes questionable, the fact that he has it, isn’t. He’s not as crazy as Lance, but he definitely plays with an edge (when he plays). He’ll warm his hands over an imaginary fire when Paul George heats up from the field. He’ll flex when he completes an And-1, and he showed some signs of life in what was a generally “lifeless” performance against the Charlotte Hornets early in the season.
Take the third-quarter of that contest, for instance. Young only had two points, but he was a team-high plus-4 because of the effort he brought. He used his speed to push the pace in transition. He chased down a loose ball for a transition dunk, and he was ready and willing to pick his man up full-court.
Here’s the speedy guard sticking around to steal a lazy inbounds pass at the start of the fourth.
If Kevin Pritchard is, indeed, looking to inject the roster with high energy flyers, he shouldn’t have to look too far.
How did Joe Young disappoint?
Of course, it’s also a skilled league. Young’s smaller frame and loose handle sometimes makes it a challenge for him to get where he wants to go when his speed fails him. This, at least in part, likely has to do with why the right-handed guard shot the ball so poorly from the left side of the floor.
The amount of clock it sometimes takes him to breakdown his defender also seems to feed his continuing struggle with finding the right balance between self-belief and overcompensation. For instance, when there is less than five seconds to play at the end of a quarter and Paul George is in the game, it is probably best to get him the ball rather than force a low-percentage, turnaround jump shot.
This is why he would probably be better utilized as a stop release than a shot-creating point guard. Here, in this rare sighting of 4-out offense, all that is expected of Young is to stand at the proper angle and hit the open shot when Paul George draws double coverage.
What’s next for Joe Young?
Kevin Pritchard agrees with this assessment.
“Don’t think that Joe Young isn’t a potential NBA player,” Indiana’s new President of Basketball Operations warned while speaking on 1070 The Fan’s The Dan Dakich Show. “Specifically, what Joe does very well is shoot the ball. By bringing in Lance, we can get Joe off the ball and off making decisions...”
Young only shot 21.7 percent from three this season (0.7 attempts per game), but the distance doesn’t seem to bother him as much as the lack of touches. The fact that he shot 63.6 percent (3.7 attempts) during his three-game stint with the Mad Ants as a rookie seems to bear this out. Still, it’s debatable whether the Pacers will find enough shots for him as a presumably fifth-option to find his in-game rhythm on a consistent basis.
Another concern is that moving him off-ball doesn’t exactly jibe with the emphasis Pritchard placed on “size for position” while making the media rounds. The Pacers already looked into this crystal ball when Nate McMillan made the ill-advised decision to have the Stephenson-Brooks backcourt tandem switch everything against Cleveland in the playoffs.
“We feel good about Joe,” Pritchard confirmed. “We really do.”
After a season where his cameo in Paul George’s latest Gatorade commercial and beef with Brandon Jennings were his most memorable moments, he is going to need to work smarter — not harder — than he did last summer to make good on Pritchard’s belief in him. Because at 24 years of age, Joe Young isn’t so young anymore.