There are 15 men currently on the Boston Celtics roster and James Young might honestly be the most forgettable guy of the bunch.
Well that has probably changed over the past few days as the guy who is constantly labeled as a “bust” has helped his team pull away in back-to-back contests.
Young hadn’t played ten or more minutes since getting a ton of garbage time on January 24th when Boston was blown out by the Washington Wizards, and suddenly his name was called in a close contest against the Utah Jazz over the weekend.
Boston led by eight points early in the third quarter when Marcus Smart had to be pulled for some cramping issues and Brad Stevens didn’t really have many places to go. Jae Crowder wasn’t with the team for a personal issue, Jaylen Brown had already left the game with a hip injury while guys like Gerald Green and Terry Rozier were already going over their usual minutes load with all these players out. Stevens then looked in the direction of the former first round pick and Young was able to make the absolute most of his unexpected minutes, scattering seven points over the final 7:18 of the third quarter as the Celtics extended their lead to 12. He would go onto finish the evening with ten points on 4-for-7 shooting over 15 minutes of playing time.
Getting Crowder back for their Monday night clash against the Dallas Mavericks made it seem like Young’s cameo would be a one time occurrence, even with Brown still on the mend with his hip injury. The 21-year old swingman watched from the bench in the first half as his teammates jumped out to a 61-50 lead, but the Celtics played a terrible third quarter and their lead was down to just one as they entered the final frame. Maybe it was because of that strong showing just two nights earlier against the Jazz, but Stevens turned to Young at the start of the fourth quarter trying to do anything to hold off a hard charging Mavericks team and it paid off as he was played the entire fourth quarter, scoring five points on 2-for-3 shooting to go along with four rebounds as Boston outscored Dallas 28-16 over the final 12 minutes of action.
Brown should come back after the All-Star break and it’s almost impossible to justify giving Young any playing time on this roster when the team is fully healthy, but at this point it’s more a reflection on the depth of the Celtics instead of Young being the “bust” that people have seemingly labeled him as. The former Kentucky standout has played over ten minutes just five times this season, but he shooting 13-for-23 (56.5%) from the floor across those five appearances when getting a good chunk of minutes and he’s also averaging 2.5 rebounds in those games as well, which isn’t a bad number concerting those five appearances see him averaging just 13.4 minutes per game. Obviously, it would be a huge blow if a guy like Crowder or Brown is out long term but by now it should be known that Young is at the very least capable of giving you a strong enough showing off the bench to keep the team above water.
This kid can play and he’s still just 21-years old so you know there is still a huge window for him to keep growing as a player and if you need an example of this, you don’t have to look outside the locker room. Gerald Green was drafted 18th overall by the Celtics out of high school back in 2005 but he was out of the league entirely by age 24 and he even got cut by a team in Russia at one point and that’s not even a country people think of when it comes to their professional basketball leagues. After spending two full years out of the NBA, he finally got back in with the New Jersey Nets during the 2011-12 at the age of 26 and he’s had a solid career as a role player ever since, averaging 10.9 PPG with a 36.2% mark from beyond the arc over the last six seasons.
All of this isn’t happening because Young is a bust, it’s more a reflection on Danny Ainge’s ability to build a strong and competitive roster. Young probably won’t be in Boston next season. The team has too many better players, draft picks and talented players stashed overseas to justify bringing him back when his contract is up at the end of the season, but it’s time to appreciate what he can do now before he catches on with another team that can give him playing time and allow him to finally grow like Green did.