While Boston's best days are clearly in the future, the Celtics continue to scrap their way for the No. 8 seed in the East and sat just four games back of Charlotte as of Tuesday morning. Boston has managed to keep itself in the playoff picture while doling out heavy minutes to players that figure to be key fixtures moving forward, such as Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller.
The notable name missing from that list is James Young, and his lack of playing time has puzzled Celtics' fans. Sure, Boston has a shot at the final seed in the East, but the prize for that accomplishment is likely a first-hand thrashing at the hands of the Hawks. Plus, Brooklyn and Detroit both have better records, and asking the young Celtics to pass a trio of veteran rosters is a tall task.
Young may not be ready to be a 20-minute a game-type of player for a contending NBA team right now, but every move Boston has made this year shows it's looking toward the future, not the present. So why can't Young see the floor?
"I think we’re going to see him sooner rather than later for us, a lot more than we have."
Sunday's loss to Miami marked the first time Young entered the game in the first quarter, but the rookie still played just nine minutes, scoring three points on two shots. He's only hit double digits in minutes three times this season and is averaging just 7.5 minutes in his 13 games.
The lack of playing time shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Young left Kentucky after just one season, where he helped the Wildcats advance to the national title game with his 14.3 points per game and 35 percent shooting from deep. That was enough to convince the Celtics to select him No. 17 in the draft, drawing an ecstatic reaction from at least one Celtic fan.
Since then, he's spent almost as much time in the D-Leage as with Boston, and his exploits with the Maine Red Claws have done little to quell the excitement surrounding the talented 19-year-old:
James Young is now shooting 51.2 percent on almost ten 3-point attempts per game in the D-League. True shooting an awesome 70.1%.
"I don't think defense is (going to be an issue) once he gets strong enough. I think the biggest thing right now is that there will be some guys that he'll struggle to guard just physically. But once he continues to work the way he's working, he'll be good on both ends of the court."
Young is listed at a sinewy 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. He's fine when floating around the perimeter hunting triples, but it's uncertain if his body is mature enough to take some hits in the paint, especially when opposing wings try to post him up.
And at the moment, the Celtics have a glut at the two positions he plays. Once assumed to simply be buyout fodder, TayShaun Prince has averaged 8.7 points per game since coming over from Memphis, joining Marcus Thornton, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and even Smart (when Evan Turner is also in the game) on the wing. With the playoffs in mind, Stevens has often opted in favor of playing the more steady veterans instead of Young.
Injuries and illness have set Young back, but the rookie is willing and able to make a contribution now. Whether or not the Celtics could make a late-season charge for the playoffs, this roster is built for 2016 and beyond. Stevens certainly knows this, and it would be beneficial to let Young take his lumps now and shorten that learning curve so he's ready to contribute when Boston has real playoff aspirations.