Sixers draft target: G/F James Young

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Sixers draft target: G/F James Young

In this installment of our series before June 26’s draft, we look at a swingman who can shoot:

James Young
Position: Guard/Forward
Height/Weight: 6-6/210
School: Kentucky

Another one of John Calipari's "one-and-done" prospects who is entering the NBA after just one season at Kentucky. Young was often overshadowed by Julius Randle and Andrew and Aaron Harrison at Kentucky, but he finished last season as the Wildcats' second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. As a freshman, he shot 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range.

Young bolstered his draft stock significantly with his performance in the national championship game. He was far and away Kentucky's best player in a six-point loss to UConn, scoring 20 points on 5 of 13 shooting from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. Young's driving dunk in the first half was the highlight of the game and left no doubt that he has the athleticism and explosiveness to succeed in the NBA.

Young has ideal size for an NBA swingman. He will play either the shooting guard or small forward position at the pro level. This year's draft is brimming with prospects at each of those positions. How Young stacks up with the rest of that crop remains to be seen.

Strengths
Young has extraordinary athleticism and a polished offensive skill set for a player who has yet to turn 19 years old. He also doesn't shy away from big moments. Young averaged just under 17 points in Kentucky's final three games of the season, which happened to be the Elite Eight, Final Four and national championship. Young is capable of taking over a game with his ability to score the ball. In addition to having an effective (though sometimes inconsistent) outside stroke, Young can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.
 
There is no doubt that the scrutiny that accompanies playing at Kentucky prepares you for life in the NBA. Young never seemed to have a problem dealing with that.

Weaknesses
His biggest issue in college was consistency. Young had eight games last season with 20 or more points. He also had eight games with fewer than 10 points. Some of this was due to Kentucky's deep roster and vast supply of scorers. But there is no denying Young has the tendency to disappear for prolonged stretches of games.

There are also questions surrounding his defensive abilities. Young has the foot speed to be a solid perimeter defender, but never seemed invested on the defensive end during his one season at Kentucky. This is a common trait among NBA players, but Young could separate himself by working to become more of a two-way player.

Young wasn't exactly a willing passer in college. In over 32 minutes per game, he averaged just 1.7 assists. That's actually difficult to do for a player who has the ball in his hands as often as he did.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Young is exactly the type of raw athlete that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie seems to covet. But Hinkie also prefers players who can play defense, and Young is a long way from earning that label. At just 18 years of age, Young's game and body are still rounding into form. His potential is enticing and the fact he's still two or three years away from his best basketball meshes well with the Sixers' long-range rebuilding plan.

But if the Sixers hold onto the 3rd and 10th picks, they're very unlikely to call Young's name on draft night. If they really like him, they could trade down to the middle of first round to take him.        

NBA comparison
Arron Afflalo, who was more advanced coming out of UCLA than Young is entering the league. But they have very similar body types and offensive skills. Afflalo has made himself into an elite outside shooter. He shot 43 percent from three-point territory last season, upping his career average to 39 percent. Those percentages aren't out of the question for Young, who may be a better athlete than Afflalo.

Draft projection
Mid-first round (13th to 20th pick). 

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

MIAMI -- Dion Waiters' 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left capped his 33-point effort, and the Miami Heat beat Golden State 105-102 on Monday night to end the Warriors' seven-game winning streak.

The Heat wasted a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes, and Kevin Durant tied the game on a dunk with 11.7 seconds left. With no timeouts, Waiters walked the ball up the court and drilled what became the game-winner over Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors (see full recap).

Rivers, Crawford lead Clippers past Hawks
ATLANTA -- Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford broke out of a shooting slump with 19, helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Crawford had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a driving basket after Atlanta cut the Clippers' lead from 24 to five points.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds (see full recap).

Wizards beat Hornets behind Wall’s 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wall firmly believes the Washington Wizards are a good team with plenty of playoff potential.

The key, he said, "is we just got to believe it every time we step on the court."

Wall had 24 points and seven assists, and the Wizards looked plenty confident as they continued their run up the Eastern Conference standings with a 109-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night (see full recap).

Kings snap skid with win over Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Ty Lawson added 19 points and helped Sacramento turn the game around with a strong second quarter. Lawson scored nine points in the second, and the Kings outscored the Pistons 37-24 in the period to take a 65-62 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lawson put Sacramento up 101-90 in the fourth, and the Kings held on from there to stop Detroit's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Jones, Holiday lead Pelicans past Cavs
NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James' dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James' drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being 100 percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded, as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014.

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.