In just his second year in the association, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young is enjoying an outstanding season, averaging 29.4 points and 9.3 assists per contest
There were a lot of people who doubted Trae Young when he came out of the University of Oklahoma in the 2018 draft. At just 6-foot-1 and 180 lbs, he’s definitely undersized for the NBA. But despite his stature, Young has proved all the critics wrong, breaking out as an absolute star this year for an Atlanta Hawks team who are in the midst of a rebuild.
The 21-year-old has emerged as one of the most exciting young talents in the league, currently fourth in points per game and second in assists per contest, behind only LeBron James. He was an outstanding playmaker and shooter at the college level, but a lot of people didn’t believe he could translate his game to the NBA.
Young has had no issue whatsoever adapting to the association, putting up ridiculous numbers all year long in his sophomore season.
The former Oklahoma star has compiled 10 40-plus point games in 2019-20, including a 50-point performance in a win over a very good Miami Heat team in late February. On Monday night he also made history, joining some very elite company. Young recorded his fourth game of 30-plus points and 15-plus assists, surpassing both Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas for the most games with those number of points and dimes in their first two seasons.
Oh, and don’t forget this milestone achieved for Young in Atlanta’s OT win over Charlotte two nights ago:
Becoming a more complete player
Young is known for his long-range three’s and his ability to facilitate the basketball. But a part of his game that’s drastically improved this year is getting to the rim and finishing. Sure, he’s small. But Young is very quick and possesses slick handles. The first time All-Star has done a really good job of weaving amongst bigs and converting on more high percentage looks this season, making him even more of an offensive threat.
He’s attempting 11.3 2-pointers per night compared to just 9.6 in his rookie year. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but in a day and age where the 3-pointer seems to be the primary way to rack up points, its refreshing that he does get to the hoop frequently.
His special passing abilities could be his most attractive trait though. Young always seems one step ahead of defenders, whether he’s dishing the rock through an opposition’s legs or simply hitting a teammate with a half-court alley-oop. He has tremendous court vision and continues to prove every single game that he is one of the best facilitators in the NBA.
For example, this no-look pass to John Collins on Monday night. Unreal.
Atlanta needs to make moves
Young is just fourth in the league in usage rate at 33.8 percent, behind the likes of James Harden, Luka Doncic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s the primary ball-handler for the Hawks at all times by no surprise. But in order for Young to be a real superstar in this league, he needs to be on a playoff team. Despite his wonderful campaign, the Hawks are a disappointing 20-45, which is second-last in the Eastern Conference.
They acquired Clint Capela from the Rockets at the deadline which could be a valuable signing. A solid big is an immediate need for Atlanta, especially because they’re currently 21st in the NBA in rebounds per game. However, he is dealing with a bad heel issue and will play limited minutes once he returns to action. The goal right now would be to have Capela healthy enough to play 82 games next year.
Atlanta does have a few intriguing young players who could play a crucial role in the future. Collins is having a spectacular year, enjoying career highs in numerous categories, including points and rebounds. He’s dropping 21.6 per game, second on the team to Young. Former Virginia standout De’Andre Hunter is also enjoying a solid rookie campaign, starting 61 games so far at small forward, adding 12.3 points and 4.5 boards.
Between Young, Collins, Capela, Hunter, and former Duke standout Cam Reddish, Atlanta has a solid core to build around. They definitely need a few more pieces to bring this team together and make them a possible seven or eight seed in the future in a competitive Eastern Conference, but there is definitely some talent there.
In order for Young to really become a superstar like Kawhi or LeBron, he needs to do what they’ve done in order to gain that status. Win NBA Championships. But at just 21 years old, he has lots of time. If the Hawks can’t rebuild into a team that can contend, he may need to go elsewhere in order to win titles.
But for now, he’s proving to be one of the most talented players in the league. The sky is the limit for Trae Young in what looks to be one very decorated NBA career.