Becoming A Man
By: TJ Hartnett
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
I’m friends on Facebook with this guy I went to college with and after every single Atlanta Hawks game, he posts the exact same status update: “Trae Young is the best PG in the league!” After every single game.
Whether or not that statement is true might be debatable, but Young is certainly an incredible player. Young became the second player in NBA history to have at least two 49+ point games before turning 22 years old.
And just to make sure you’re following: that means that Trae Young is only 21.
Those 49 points tied a career high for the young Hawk (Young Hawk, even); he also matched a career best with eight three-point shots, his third time reaching that mark.
Despite the team’s overall struggles (the Hawks are 4-15, tied for dead last at the bottom of the Eastern Conference pile with the New York Knicks), Young has emerged as a bona-fide superstar. He is the kind of home-grown talent that the Hawks have been yearning for and missing out on for years.
Atlanta may be losing, but it’s nothing to do with their star point guard. In fact, both of Young’s 49-point master classes have come in games that Atlanta has lost.
He’s top ten in the league in points and top five in assists, having massively improved upon a rookie campaign that was in equal turns fascinating and frustrating.
All last season, Young had critical eyes on him. He wasn’t Luca Doncic might’ve been the consensus; and he’s a smaller player, so how’s going to play on defense? Will his scoring translate to the NBA?
All that chirping had to have put a chip on Young’s shoulder, and he’s playing like that chip lit a fire under him, if I may mix my metaphors.
He finished up his first year in the league on a high note but has gone far beyond simply picking up where he left off. All of his offensive stats are higher than last season’s. Atlanta is starting to grow accustomed to 25-30 points per game with double-digit (or close to it) assists.
Does he need to improve his defense? Sure. But with his offense game so stellar, it’s something he can afford to work on.
He also has work to do on midrange shots. While his size disadvantage doesn’t really matter when he is drilling threes, the closer he gets to the basket the tougher it is for him to produce.
But even there he’s showing improvement, from 10 feet from the hoop to the 3-point line, Young has been shooting over 5 percent better this season than last. For a player that has the ball as much as he does, even that small improvement goes a long way.
His maturity and leadership are a big part of his game as well. He’s made these improvements and broken out, not just with a struggling team, but with a vastly different one than he started with last season.
With so much turnover on the roster, it would have made sense for Young to need time to get acclimated to his new teammates. Instead, he’s been hot right from the first tip-off.
The team is going through growing pains but that isn’t a surprise.
Even if the Hawks could have predicted the huge steps Young would take this early in his career (and they certainly couldn’t have foreseen this), the team wasn’t going to be a contender; at least, not yet.
But they know they’ve got a centerpiece around which they can build a winning team. They’ve got at least a sense of the player Trae Young can be. Which is to say: the sky is the limit.