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Is Trae Young the Next Stephen Curry?

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Oklahoma Sooners star point guard Trae Young has dominated college basketball in the opening months of his freshmen season, leading the NCAA in both points and assists with 28.7 and 10.4 per game, respectively.

He is known for both his craftiness and his ability to shoot from well beyond the NBA three-point line. As a result, he has been compared to Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who also dazzled college basketball fans with a similar skill set. But are these comparisons warranted?

Obviously, there will never be another player exactly like Stephen Curry, just like there will never be another player like Michael Jordan or Lebron James. However, players have since modeled their games after these legends, such as Kobe Bryant and Ben Simmons. The question is: can Trae Young be a Curry-type player? One way to determine this is to compare their respective strengths and weaknesses.

To the casual fan, it would appear that neither player has any weaknesses, but scouts tend to nitpick every detail of a player’s game. In fact, Stephen Curry was heavily scrutinized coming into the NBA.

At 6’3”, he was considered a “tweener” — too short to play the shooting guard position, but not skilled enough at running an offense to be a point guard. He was also viewed as lacking NBA-level athleticism and strength which would impede his ability to finish in traffic and defend other point guards.

However, scouts did praise Curry’s ability score from practically anywhere on the court and use his ball-handling ability to create separation for more open shots. In regards to defense, he was also known for being able to deflect the ball and get steals due to his ability to read plays and anticipate the opposing team’s actions.

Trae Young has many of the same strengths and weaknesses. He is a great shooter who can score from seemingly anywhere and he’s a crafty dribbler who can split defenders and thread the needle for pinpoint passes.

Like Curry, he is undersized, standing at just 6’2” with a 6’4” wingspan. He also lacks the speed and athleticism to guard against faster point guards (though, also like Curry, he is good at getting deflections and steals), and will need to add strength to finish against NBA defenders.

Even though Trae Young has similar strengths and weaknesses, we still might want to pump the breaks on the Curry comparisons. Many players have been great in college but fizzled out as pros.

Jimmer Fredette, for example, was a superstar (and honestly a living meme) in college, but struggled as a pro due to underwhelming speed and athleticism. Numerous others have been compared to Stephen Curry. Buddy Hield, D’Angelo Russell, and Markelle Fultz have all been compared to Curry and have had varying degrees of success in their pro careers.

Hield has settled into a role as a secondary scorer for the Sacramento Kings, while Russell looks to be the point guard of the future for the Brooklyn Nets despite struggles with injuries and inconsistencies.

Fultz faces an uncertain future when he returns from his shoulder injury. As a combo guard, he can play on- or off-ball, though he is most effective as a point guard. However, Ben Simmons occupies that spot on the Philadelphia 76ers and likely will not relinquish it.

Like these other players, Trae Young’s future depends heavily on which team he ends up on. Stephen Curry is lucky to play for a Golden State Warriors team that highlights his strengths while hiding his weaknesses.

The offense is free-flowing, allowing Curry to get the best shot possible and the defense is one of the best in the league, with elite on-ball defenders in Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson, allowing the Warriors to “hide” Curry on the least talented player on the floor.

In addition, the team frequently switches, preventing Curry from guarding any one player for too long. Curry is able to get deflections and actually led the league in steals in 2016 but doesn’t have to exhaust too much energy on that end, freeing him up to be even more effective on offense. Trae Young likely won’t have these luxuries.

There’s no telling where Young will end up, but wherever it is, be it Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, or Memphis, it likely won’t be an ideal situation. On the bright side, the Golden State Warriors were a mess when Curry arrived, with an awkward collection of young talent that didn’t quite mix.

Curry also dealt with injuries early on in his career but overcame these challenges to become a two-time MVP, thanks in part to his insane work ethic. If Trae Young wants to be anywhere near Curry’s level, he will need to work hard on all aspects of his game.

In the meantime, let’s stop with the comparisons and just enjoy watching him tear apart the NCAA.

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Is Trae Young the Next Stephen Curry?