Cup of Joe: The James Young problem

Mailin it In w/ Max Sandrgund

Editor's note: Most of this conversation took place last Thursday

MattDotRich: Hey Max, let's do that thing where I pretend to spontaneously email you about a random topic and act like we haven't been already talking about it behind closed doors.

The Celtics are currently sitting somewhere around the 30% line from distance. What do they need to do to address their shooting woes?

Max Sandgrund: Glad you asked, Matt, because this has to be addressed if the Celtics plan on vying for the Atlantic Division this season. They have taken 166 3-pointers and made 50 of them. In contrast, their opponents made 45 on only 132 attempts. Surprisingly, forwards, Jared Sullinger (7-15) and Jonas Jerebko (2-4), are the only ones on the roster shooting above 33% from three.

What makes this even more frustrating is that the Celtics are shooting an impressive 47% on 2-point field goals, which begs the question: why must they shoot 28 three-pointers per game? The answer? They SHOULD NOT. I understand that is where the NBA is going, but not every roster is created equal.

Step two: I actually wrote a column about this area of concern for the Celtics before the season started. My solution then remains my solution: James Young.

MDR: I think you and I are probably on opposite ends of the spectrum on James Young.I just think he's just so, so far away from being able to contribute on the court that the Celtics should look to see if they could move him. Not because I don't think he'll ever pan out - he has the talent - I just don't think it'll be on his first rookie deal.

He just hasn't looked like he belongs. Last season offensively he looked like a guy who was trying to remember what motions to go through, and he looked about as lost on the court defensively as I've ever seen. There was a hand full of times last year where I thought Marcus Smart was going to physically assault the guy he was so far out of position. And unfortunately, after a few weeks of hype this summer, even in the preseason he looked the same.

So, Max, why do you say that James Young is the next guy up? Particularly when RJ Hunter seems so poised for the role.

MS: Well, at least we agree on the problem, Matt. I think until someone steps up as our go-to shooter, we will continue to see Isaiah Thomas settling from the outside, which is good for no one. He, and the Celtics, need someone to kick the ball out to with confidence. Many, not necessarily you, see James Young opening up with the Maine Red Claws and automatically assume he is a non-factor. However, that has never been proven.

My problem with how the organization has handled Young, especially this season, is their refusal to see him as different from some of his teammates who continue to get playing time over him.

 I agree with idea you need to earn your minutes in this league and that is even more true on a team with as much depth as the Celtics, but I also believe a player like James Young should be treated somewhat differently because we drafted him right outside the lottery just two years ago. We knew how young he was, and that it likely meant he was a project who was going to require development. He is not going to develop into a confident NBA player while in Maine. He needs to come to Boston for good and be given real minutes in the rotation.

He made 68 of his 154 three-pointers (44%) with Maine last season And you can claim all you want that he did it at the D-league, but the three-point line is no different there. During this past preseason, he shot 7 for 20 from three, which was third-best on the team among players with at least three attempts per game.

And for every claim made he did not do that during his NBA time, I would return that it was because he was shooting with ZERO confidence. Every one of James Young's NBA three-point attempts through two seasons has been shot with him thinking his job was at stake if he did not make it. There is no downside to giving him a chance. A real chance. Minutes where he is allowed to mess up once or twice. Some of them do not involve high-stress situations, where he can get in there and play with some rhythm.

You mention RJ Hunter as the guy who may step up to take that spot instead of Young. Look, RJ has been remarkable on defense so far, and he is already better than James. However, this team is 4th in defensive rating for reasons that go well beyond Hunter. The problem is the their 15th-rated offense and their 26th-ranked three-point percentage, which RJ will not help.

MDR: There's certainly something to be said about facing that much uncertainty as a young kid entering the league.

That being said, I think you're making too much of some really small sample sizes when you compare Young and Hunter. I definitely don't want to be the guy who throws aside stats, but the eye test is really telling two stories here. I can't speak for the d-league, but when I've seen him play w/ the Celtics (regular season, preseason, and Las Vegas league) James Young has consistently looked lost on both ends of the court, while RJ Hunter has looked like he's belonged since day one.

I'm not a 'you gotta earn it' guy either, I do think people need the chance - but I just don't know how you can give James Young the time when he's looked so far off when he's getting his (limited, inconsistent) opportunities. There's too few minutes to be divied up between guys (in Bradley, Turner, Jerebko, Crowder, Hunter and the point guards) who deserve to play today. He may need some more consistency, but that's not something he can get on this team today; the Celtics need him to be a plug & play guy who can respond to spot minutes when they need it.

Let me ask you; What's the solution for James Young? If it's giving him minutes every night, who's minutes is he taking?

MS: That all makes sense, Matt, but let me be clear: James Young is my answer to the question about how the Celtics solve their outside shooting struggles

1. What I discussed regarding Hunter is not a small sample size. We have collectively built RJ up as a three-point shooter and I cannot tell you why that has happened. Is it because the shot he made in last year's NCAA tournament? All I know is this: (a) he attempted 262 threes last season at Georgia State and made 80, which is good for 30%; and (b) he has attempted 30 three-pointers in the preseason/regular season at the NBA level so far and has made 8, which is good for 27%.

2. This may be where we disagree most. Those players you mention we need to find time for (and deserve it?) are the exact players who have led you to even ask me this question in the first place!

Therefore, one of two things must change in order to improve our outside shooting and the offense as a whole: (a) stop shooting threes; or (b) change the players shooting the threes. We both know they are not going away from focusing much of their offense on perimeter shooting since that is sort of what they built their roster to do.

So, whose minutes does he take? Any one of them, but lets absolutely start with Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley.

Jae has played an insane 30 minutes per game so far this year, during which time he has shot 33% overall and 26% from three. He does not need to be playing this much over an 82-game season. Jae should average no more than 25 minutes per game, with those extra five going to Young. Avery is playing 28 minutes per game while shooting 33% from three (on 6 attempts per game). Evan Turner is playing just under 26 minutes and is shooting 30% from three. Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas are both playing over 30 minutes per game and shooting an absolute abysmal 25% from three.

People should be careful not the confuse the eye test of their overall play with the eye test of their ability to shoot from the outside. We are discussing how to address the Celtics outside shooting woes. On that front, the above-referenced five are the main culprits and are all playing more minutes than they need. Therefore, I would give James Young minutes from all five of them, and I would tell him he will get 10-12 minutes per game (give him 2-3 MPG from each). In so doing, we get to see what Young is capable of and determine whether or not he is going to be a part of our future.

Start Your Morning Off With... Nick Young in an N*Sync shirt, not knowing anything about N*Sync