The fifth leading scorer in this year's Summer League, Sam Young saw consistent minutes as a rookie last season in Memphis, and while he didn't hit jump shots at a high rate, he still got the job done off the bench. A long and powerfully built wing, Young struggled to translate the spot-up proficiency he showed at Pittsburgh to NBA three point range. One of a number of players selected in the early part of the second round in 2009 that had a productive season on the wing, Young showed well in Las Vegas. His numbers are a bit skewed because of a 3-point performance in limited minutes in Memphis' final outing, but his 35-point explosion against the D-League Select team surely compensates for that.
Playing next to O.J. Mayo initially during his Summer League cameo and the rest of Memphis' stable of former draft picks, Young was the primary beneficiary of the Grizzlies' efforts to play a very up-tempo style. Leaking up the floor regularly, the Pittsburgh product found himself on the receiving end of a handful of deep outlets every game. Young capitalized on the fast break frequently, using his excellent athleticism to finish explosively at the basket and using his strength to his advantage to take contact and get to the line.
When the game slowed down, Young didn't seem to be looking to take the ball to the rim, with most of his touches around the basket coming off of back-door cuts and a handful of well timed offensive rebounds. For the most part, he looked to break his man down off the catch using jabs and quick rip-throughs to open up space for his midrange jump shot. Young did knock down a handful of catch and shoot jumpers and pull-ups, looking extremely confident with his shot selection, but didn't convert at a fantastic rate.
Defensively, Young showed some hustle defensive, and made an effort when closing out the likes of Gary Neal and Wayne Ellington, though both players hit quite a few shots with Young a step late in pursuit. Young played a sound brand of team-defense, seldom taking risks and doing a good job positioning himself to help his teammates, but his play in Las Vegas was a microcosm of some of the issues he had as a rookie last season.
Young has the tools to be a very good defender, but he doesn't make scrappy plays denying penetration one-on-one or show the high intensity level that one would like to see from a player with his potential. We can't condemn Young for his defensive performance in the regular season last year or in the Summer League, but the Grizzlies are certainly hoping to see more from him down the road.
Young's ability to improve on the defensive end will significantly increase what he brings to the table in Memphis. He's proven capable of putting points on the board despite his inability to shoot the NBA three, but he could become an exceptionally valuable player if he brought his A-game defensively on every possession. Xavier Henry will be charged with knocking down shots off the bench in Memphis, meaning this is a golden opportunity for Young to do the things that he does best offensive and start to achieve his potential defensively.