POP SAYS TRAE MADE FOR N.Y.:
Dad: Trae is made for N.Y.
CHICAGO — It’s a cliché, but it’s true: not all athletes can handle New York. With that being said, nobody in this upcoming draft has been prepared for the spotlight better than Trae Young.
“That’s what Trae lives for. He lives for that type of stuff. Just think about it: He’s probably the most talked about, most publicized kid in this draft and he’s been through it all,” Young’s father, Ray, told the Daily News. “Trae’s been scrutinized to the point that he has thick skin. None of that stuff is going to bother him. He was like the darling of college basketball for three months, and then the last month-and-a-half he turned into a bad guy, for some reason.
“So for him to be in a market like New York and understand that it’s all about winning — and if you don’t win, there’ll be some scrutiny — he’s already been through it.” The Knicks are scheduled to interview Young on Friday, according to his father, and the family has made no secret that New York is a desirable destination. A match, however, is reliant on two fluid factors — whether Young is available when the Knicks pick at No. 9, and whether the Knicks would choose a point guard despite their glaring need for a small forward.
They’ve been linked to a pair of small forwards — Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges — but also to a point guard — Alabama’s Collin Sexton.
None of those players brings the offensive firepower or cachet of Young, 19, who led the NCAA in scoring at 27.4 points per game at Oklahoma.
“I know Sexton’s family. I’ve known Collin the last couple of years through AAU, high school basketball. So first of all, if any of those guys get drafted by the Knicks, the Knicks are getting two great men,” Ray said. “But the way they’re different — I think Trae does it all.
“I think it really gets overlooked that he led the country in points and assists. Not only did he do that as a college player, but he did that as a freshman. I just don’t see people talking about that and the one thing people don’t realize about Trae is he loves to pass the ball. He’s only just been able to score because he can shoot and his goal is to lead the NBA in assists. With a player like Collin, what he can bring is that he’s a dog — not saying Trae isn’t a dog — but Collin is going to go at you, all day, all night. It just depends what a team wants. That’s not to say Collin is not an all-around player or an all-around point guard, but Trae’s proven.”
The Knicks have six guards on the roster already — Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Ron Baker — and GM Scott Perry said he’d only draft another if it translates to a giant upgrade.
“It would only make sense if you feel that guard is far and away better than what you have on the roster,” Perry said. “And we haven’t been able to make that determination yet.”
Young could certainly fit into that category with a skillset often compared to Steph Curry’s. As further evidence that his son is a fit in New York, Ray Young noted that another point guard — Memphis’ Mike Conley — enjoyed a career year under David Fizdale.
“With Mike, he kind of let him run the show,” Ray said. “Of course, Mike’s a veteran, he’s been around for a long time, so it’s a little bit different for him. But I know a lot about Coach Fizdale. I think the biggest thing with him is players love him, he’s a player’s coach.”
While drafting Young would appear a slight to New York’s lottery pick last year, Ntilikina, a Western Conference scout told The News they’d be a strong match in the backcourt.
“It gives them a ball-dominant point guard which is probably the best for (Ntilikina) — and Frank could always defend the better guard on the other team. So I could see that,” the scout said. “I could see his game really working (with the Knicks). Obviously you don’t want to take shots from Kristaps (Porzingis), but you put those two in pick-and-roll, that’s a pretty dynamic thing.
“And if he learns to play off the ball where you can do stuff with Kristaps in the mid-post where he could do his thing and he spreads the floor with his shooting ability, then you have something pretty good.”
The criticism of Young centers on two things: His defense was subpar or sometimes non-existent at Oklahoma, and his overall game suffered once the opposition adjusted. The fall in the second-half of the season — both for himself and the Sooners — was dramatic. But as his father indicated, Young’s role was highly loaded at Oklahoma — meaning he was tasked with carrying the entire offense and, as a result, sometimes took off plays at the other end. “That’s not to blame anything on Oklahoma but he was asked to do other things (other than defense),” said Ray, a former star at Texas Tech who groomed his son for the NBA. “As a dad I was disappointed when he didn’t play as much defense as he should have but I know what my son’s capabilities are and I know over time he’s going to guard and do what he needs to do. Because he competes.”
Regardless of Young’s perceived deficiencies, he was, without question, the most electric and most popular player in the NCAA last season. In other words, he’s a player fit for the brightest lights.
“That would be something special to be in that market,” Ray said. “And I’ll tell you, the way he plays — as much scrutiny as he took, he sold out arenas all over the country. People wanted to watch him an hour before the game just warm up and shoot. And I’m not necessarily big on the Steph Curry comparisons but it is what it is — especially with the following and how people look at my son.”
Trae Young took NCAA by storm as a freshman at Oklahoma, and his father believes he can thrive in New York City spotlight if Knicks can pick him at No. 9 overall.