Monday, January 1, 2018

Looking For the Big Score

By Jonathan Lowe

There's a reason that any sports draft is a crapshoot. No matter how much we see, know, and extract from a player's career at various stages, there is no tried and true method to get 100% of your selections to the Hall of Fame. Now, I'm not diving headfirst into next June's NBA draft. There's too many variables to consider over the next six-plus months. But one rising prospect case has me wondering a bit.

The object of any sport is to score at a high level, but that's the case in basketball more than any other game. Scoring a run a game, that's really good. Getting a goal a game puts you on a pretty elite level. Finding the end zone once a week (excluding quarterbacks) makes you an all-pro player. In hoops, you better score multiple buckets to stay off the pine. Being a quality scorer should be an omen for success, wherever you land. Well...

This year's crop of Division I freshmen appears to be quite deep. From Duke's Marvin Bagley III to Alabama's Collin Sexton to Arizona's DeAndre Ayton, there are a lot of high-end prospects that professional franchises can choose from to advance their title hopes. One such prospect is Oklahoma's Trae Young. The Norman native just went mere miles to advance from his Norman North High gym to battling the Big XII's best at the Lloyd Noble Center.

The conference slate started Saturday, when Young's Sooners handed TCU their first loss of the season. The point guard dropped 39 points and 14 assists on the 10-ranked (AP poll) Horned Frogs. But this wasn't a stand-alone performance. This kid's been putting up these kind of numbers since the start of the season. This is why he leads the nation in scoring (29.6 ppg). So, we know that he can fill up the basket. However, that might not be the best thing for us to know at this point.

As you can see below, since the 2001-2002 season, there's been a couple of characteristics that are fairly common amongst the 14 young men that have led Division I in scoring average:


*They are mainly upperclassmen.
*They are mainly from mid- or lower-majors.

These are two trends that the Oklahoma freshman is trying to break. Yes, BYU and Gonzaga are nationally-known programs, but Green is the last player from a Power Conference to achieve this feat. There's one more trend that Young will try and shift down the road.

Besides Curry, which one of these players has reached the level of being of NBA household name, let alone a star (let alone an all-star)? Morrison is known as one of the bigger busts of this generation. Fredette was given a shot, but couldn't hang in the Association (he is showing out in China, though). McDermott has faded into obscurity after a injury cut his rookie campaign by more than half. The other guys ... if they stayed in the league, I haven't heard much about it.

Young has shown his immense talent during this early portion of his freshman year. And part of that talent that may help him break this particular "curse" on top scoring prowess is the fact that his teammates get involved. Yep, the Sooner also leads the country in assists per game (10.7), and the margin's pretty wide (+1.6 per game). In 12 games, he's already recorded seven double-doubles. He appears to have caught up to the speed of the college game already.

Look, this kid was a five-star recruit for a reason. He's exciting to watch and extremely effective in relation to the team's success. He's announced himself to the rest of the country with these early performances. All I'm saying is that, for all the hype and hysteria that we fans have created, I hope that this can translate to the final level. If it does, how much fun are we in for?

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