It was crowded Thursday morning in the Advocate Center Bulls training facility when Oklahoma's Trae Young settled in to speak with reporters. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and basketball chief John Paxson loomed nearby. The local network sports news regulars were there, the cameras, reporters from ESPN and the NBA website. And then there was the elephant in the room.
Young, the slight in stature slick shooting point guard, naturally shifted a bit with mention of the elephant. Elephants can take the air out of a room quickly. So what would Young say to Bulls starting point guard Kris Dunn if the Bulls selected Young with the No. 7 selection in next Thursday's NBA draft?
"I mean, Kris is great player," Young stammered some. "Kris is a really good player. I mean, yeah, that's all I got to say about that. I don't know what you want me to say. He'd be my teammate, so I wouldn't tell him anything."
But you'd be playing with him, right?
"I would ask him for advice," Young said. "I would ask for advice. He's played in the league. I want to know what it's like to be a rookie in the league. I want to know what he went through as a rookie, different things. I would ask him for advice."
Like whether the Bulls should select a point guard with their lottery draft when they have Dunn, who was the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA draft?
"Why would they take me?" Young repeated. "I don't think there's anybody like me in the draft. I think with the guys and the talent on this team, with their different abilities—we'd have athletic wings, shooters, shooting big men who pick and pop—and my ability to pass the ball and my ability to shoot the ball, (it) would make it easier for my teammates and for this team. I think it would be a great decision to pick me."
That was the correct answer, and a pretty good one.
I have no idea if the Bulls have a strong interest in Young, who led the nation at the U. of Oklahoma this season in scoring and assists. But they've only been making players available to media who seem in their selection range. And there's no reason not to take Young because they have Dunn. It's also believed the Bulls have interest in Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, a physical, penetrating point guard.
Though not necessarily because they are down or disappointed with Dunn, who had his best NBA season and already is regarded as an elite NBA defender. When the Bulls played their best this season, it was with Dunn in December and January.
You don't pass over talent because you believe you already have that position filled. And not only because you just won 27 games, which suggests you need a lot of positions filled.
Maybe just ask the Portland Trailblazers, who in 1983 drafted a super athletic shooting guard who didn't shoot that great but with Hall of Fame potential. Clyde Drexler did make the Hall of Fame, but they probably could have used super athletic, inconsistent shooting Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. Perhaps more so in this so called NBA era of positionless basketball that relies more on passing, movement and shooting.
Trae Young may be the best combination scoring/passing player in the NBA draft, an electric shooter with uncanny passing instincts. I see no reason why he wouldn't be a reasonable pick for the Bulls at No. 7. The taller, more physical Dunn could play more off the ball and give the Bulls a shooting guard who also can pass and push the ball, potentially energizing the offense. Young also could play in a three-player backcourt rotation with Dunn and Zach LaVine, alternating throughout the game and all playing a reasonable average of 32 minutes.
Young measures about 6-1 and 180 pounds, just slightly smaller—though not by much—to the historic guards to whom he often is likened, Stephen Curry and Steve Nash.
"I try to pattern my game after multiple people," Young said. "Guys like Steph obviously, Kyrie (Irving) with his handle. I've grown up in Oklahoma City, so I love Russ' (Westbrook) mentality and the way he is on the court. I've picked different things. My favorite player growing up was Steve Nash, so that's been a guy I look up to and a guy I've gotten to talk to a few times, too. So it's been really good."
Curry and Nash were considered notoriously poor defensively, though each won consecutive Most Valuable Player awards.
"I don't really think there's necessarily a way to improve defensively by going one on (zero)," said Young. "I think just working on my body, continuing to work on my speed, just showing from Day 1 that I am going to change the narrative; that's my goal and my job, to change the narrative on that (defense)."
It's unlikely Young ever becomes a top level or even good defender. But the Bulls perhaps most need the things he does bring, like long range shooting, accelerated movement up the court, passing and spacing. Young is one of the two so-called X-factors in this draft, the players regarded to have the biggest boom/bust range along with Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. had back surgery last season and has mostly refused to meet with any teams. Reports were he suffered hip spasms this week and may have to reschedule a potential group meeting with teams. Porter Jr. was regarded as the top prospect coming into this draft, but he's also mostly an individual scorer. He has high level abilities. But then do the Bulls with Dunn, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen need another player who primarily demands the ball instead of moves it?
Though what if he's better than Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen. These are not easy choices.
That's why there's also said to be interest in Kentucky's Kevin Knox, a smooth, long and versatile wing player who draws the most comparisons to a player like former Bull Scottie Pippen. Knox hasn't been rated as highly in most mock draft analyses. But many team officials see him with a greater ability to improve than many of the other players, a good chance to move into the seven to 10 range in this draft, and he is just 18.
The general consensus a week before the draft is that the top five picks should be DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Luka Doncic and Mohamed Bamba. The Bulls figure to select from a group that includes Wendell Carter Jr., Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges, Sexton, Knox and Young.
"I think everybody has things people want to look at (as potential issues)," Young acknowledged. "My job is to go out there and prove that it is not. (Size) was a concern for people coming into college (about me). I didn't let that be a factor. I know that will be a concern (again), but my job is to make that not a factor.
"My workout went really well, really well," Young said about his morning session with the Bulls. "This is one of the best ones I've had so far, a good way to end on a great note. Coach Hoiberg ran the whole thing. I think I fit really well. There are a lot of really good pieces. I know a lot of the players. A few workout with my trainers, so I've gotten to know a lot of them, Bobby (Portis), Denzel (Valentine), I've known Antonio (Blakeney) since high school. I know all about Lauri's game. I know about these guys. I think I have a really good feel for them.
"I think my ability coming into the NBA is going to make it that much easier for me with the space and the different type of players here," Young said. "I think just by the spacing alone is going to make my game that much easier and that much better for my teammates. I wanted to do something different this year. I just try and make the right play. It led to me leading the country in points and assists. As long as I'm making the right play and doing the right things, something like that could happen. That's what my mindset is, making the right play and doing the right thing each and every possession."
Young also called former Oklahoma all-American Stacey King a legend. He called King, currently the Bulls designated sobriquet selector and TV broadcaster, Mister.
One, two, give me another Trae!
Stacey's probably ready.