June 6, 2022
Film Room: How Jackie Young has made her Most Improved Player case
A breakdown of how Jackie Young has had so much success through the first month of the season.
The Las Vegas Aces have the WNBA’s best record a month into the 2022 season. They have the number one offense in the league, averaging 91 points per game. They also have been excellent on defense, specifically guarding the three-point line, holding opponents to just 29.4% shooting from beyond the arc.
A major reason for that success? Jackie Young.
Young is off to an incredible start and, despite missing Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, is looking like an early Most Improved Player candidate. She is averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting 54% from the field, 46% from three and 87% from the free throw line. She’s averaging a career high in every statistical category through the Aces’ first 11 games. Her scoring average is third best in the WNBA and she leads the league in Win Shares at 2.7.
“I just try to come in, locked in each game,” Young said about her offensive mentality this year. “I think it’s just going in, being aggressive and being confident that my teammates have trust in me and I just have to have that same trust and confidence in myself. Just taking open shots when my teammates are getting me the ball and just making the right plays.”
It’s not just Young’s offense that has been incredible to start the year. Her defense has been outstanding, and she has constantly matchup up with the opponents best perimeter player. Defensively, she has guarded Sue Bird, Kayla McBride, Courtney Vandersloot and Diana Taurasi, just to name a few. She held those players to an average of just 7.7 points on 27% shooting. Becky Hammon feels Young is playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball.
“She’s I mean, her efficiency is just crazy on both ends of the ball,” Hammon said. “I mean, you don’t want Jackie Young guarding you and on the other side of the ball, her mid range game and now her ability to shoot threes. Her ability to play make and pass, she is playing in an elite elite level. I just need her to be her.”
Here are some clips showing exactly what Young has been doing this year that has allowed her to have this excellent start:
Adding more ways to attack on offense
Coming into this year, Young’s best offensive weapons was her ability to attack the basket and her midrange jump shot. The Aces this year under Hammon are playing a much more up-tempo style of basketball and it’s allowing the team to score a lot more in transition. Young is thriving in transition so far, scoring 10% more of her points in transition this year than last year.
Here, Young gets the deflection leading to the steal, runs the floor hard and gets the ball ahead. She takes her defender one-on-one while the defense isn’t set and make a tough fadeaway jumper while getting fouled.
Off a missed shot, Young sprints ahead to the wing. She gets the ball, attacks the defender closing out, gets to the rim and finishes through the contact.
Even off a made basket, Young sprints the floor and gets to the deep corner. She attacks her defender with a couple dribble moves, gets them off balance and hits her patented mid-range jumper.
It’s not just transition where Young is thriving, but also attacking off of ball screens as well. Hammon has said there have been multiple games where she has been unguardable coming off ball screens and will call them for her multiple times in a row.
Here, Young gets the ball on the wing, uses the screen from A’ja Wilson and is able to finish around the much bigger Tina Charles.
Young gets a down screen from Plum to put her in a situation to attack off the Wilson ball screen. Lexie Brown goes under the screen, allowing Young to use her speed to beat Brown to the basket plus the foul.
Another wing ball screen by Wilson where the defender goes under. Diamond DeShields does a good job of recovering but Young goes to her float game to score.
The biggest improvement in Young’s game has been her confidence in shooting the 3-point shot. Last year, Young shot just 25% from beyond the arc while attempting less than one three per game. This year, she is shooting 45.7% from three while attempting three deep balls a game. When you watch Young, she’s not hesitating shooting the three and letting them fly with a lot of confidence.
Here, despite the less than ideal pass, Young is able to catch the ball and knock it down with Alyssa Thomas closing out while being a few feet behind the arc.
Offensive rebounds usually lead to open threes, and here Young does a great job of hitting this one off Hamby’s offensive rebound.
Locking it down on defense
Jackie Young has been a star defensively this year and she has done it in several different ways. She has done a great job of stopping opponents dribble penetration, chasing players over ball screens, and forcing turnovers.
Here, Young does a great job of tagging up on DeWanna Bonner and chasing her through two screens. Then, she does a great job of staying down on Bonner, not letting her step through and forcing a difficult floater.
This time, Young fights through the Alyssa Thomas ball screen and forces a very tough Bonner mid-range jumper.
Here, Young chases Aerial Powers over a double away screen, forces her to go left and into a step back jump shot.
This time, Young sticks with Rhyne Howard through the hand off, forcing Howard to pick up the ball in an awkward space and getting the strip down.
Young does a great job here of fighting over the flare screen and forcing Howard into a difficult finish at the rim.
In this situation, Young handles the Jewell Loyd isolation play well, forcing her left and contesting her layup attempt.
Here, Young sees a chance to steal the quick inbounds pass from Courtney Vandersloot and does.
This time, Young off the ball does a great job of seeing man and ball, reads the Moriah Jefferson pass and easily gets the steal.
Young does a great job here of fighting through the ball screen, helps on the Breanna Stewart drive and is able to get the steal.
Finally, Young fights through two separate ball screens against Diana Taurasi, then forces an incredibly tough three point attempt.
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.