In the last couple World Cup qualification windows, Kalif Young has become a mainstay in Canada's frontcourt for the Winter Core. With the next qualification window here, I thought it would be a great time to do a deep dive into his most recent performances with Canada at the AmeriCup tournament. And if you're interested, I did a similar deep dive into Thomas Kennedy last month.
Kalif Young is currently playing overseas with Medi Bayreuth in Germany. He's had a strong start to the year, averaging 7.8 PPG to go along with 7.3 REB and 1.2 STL and 1.3 BLK! He's still just 25 and spent his collegiate career playing at Providence.
At this stage of his career, Kalif Young is a pretty limited offensive player. At the AmeriCup, aside from a strong debut game against Brazil, Young was generally a non-factor scoring the ball, averaging just 3.7 PPG despite playing 24.2 MPG.
With his limited offensive arsenal, it makes sense that the majority of Young's points come from finishing plays off near the rim, rather than initiating or creating. I had a lot of high hopes for Young's scoring as a roller after watching these 2 sequences in the opening game against Brazil. Some flashes of explosiveness, but also fluidity and touch to catch the ball and score while airborne.
Unfortunately, for the rest of the tournament, these flashes never materialized into anything concrete. One thing I have noticed about Young's explosiveness is he needs the momentum from a running start for it to really pop. From a standstill, he does not get much lift off of the ground. Combined with being undersized, the lack of vertical explosiveness really hampers Young's ability to finish around the rim without a running start. This unfortunate intersection of physical tools was on full display on this sequence. Despite having inside position, Young doesn't get much vertical lift and it results in him blowing the open layup.
And even though this sequence happens on the defensive end, I think its illustrates Young's lack of vertical pop from a standstill.
Contrast the previous two plays with this next one here, where Young has a runway on the roll to explode for the thunderous finish. With this in mind, optimizing Kalif Young on offense involves finding ways to get him downhill before he catches the ball.
In the AmeriCup, Young rarely even looked at the net outside of the paint. This was one of the few shot attempts he had on the perimeter, and it wasn't pretty. I'm going to cut him some slack here with the shot clock winding down, but the lack of aggression from the perimeter overall in the tournament is an indicator to me of where he feels his shot is at.
The next step for Young to take is definitely to try and get his jumper to be a place where he is comfortable taking open midrange shots when the opportunity comes. To Young's credit, in the last qualifying window, he did seem pretty comfortable with this made jumper off the roll. However, I'm not very optimistic about the shooting improving. Young really struggles at the free throw line, shooting 61.5% in the AmeriCup and 37.5% for Medi Bayreuth this year. Although these two numbers are both from separate 6 game stretches (small sample size), Young has only eclipsed 70% from the free throw line in a season once in his pro and collegiate careers. Not the most encouraging numbers.
If he can start to bend defenses with a better jumpshot, it'll open up more opportunities and reads for Young in the short roll. Plays like this could become more regular and all of a sudden Young is a more enticing offensive player. By the way, if you take a look at his overseas film, the passing definitely stands out more than it did at the AmeriCup.