What a difference a year makes.
Trae Young struggled last season, in the early months. That Trae Young feels like a lifetime ago. 12 months later people are actually putting him into the MVP conversation after 3 games. Trae Young won’t be in the MVP conversation when all is said and done but he is balling. He has made all the Trae Young critics look stupid. He is young Steph Curry. But he’s not going to shoot 50% from three in 2019-20. His numbers will go down. Still, Trae has established himself as an All-Star, a player to watch, and someone who can sell tickets. He is a lot of fun.
The problem is not with Trae Young but his team, the Atlanta Hawks. Young is the Hawks alpha and omega. He is their Steph Curry and Klay Thompson wrapped up in one. He is all the Hawks have as far as offensive fire power. He is averaging 34 ppg. The next scorer is John Collins, averaging 14 ppg. There can’t be a 20 point drop off from scorer number one to scorer number two. The Hawks are an incomplete team and Trae Young needs a number two scorer for the Hawks to be anything more than fun and exciting. Perhaps De’Andre Hunter will be that guy, maybe he is what Klay Thompson is to Steph Curry, but Hunter is just beginning his NBA career and is still managing the learning curving.
But about those Steph Curry comparisons.
In Steph’s second year, he averaged 19 points and 6 assists. He wasn’t the leading scorer for the Warriors. Monta Ellis averaged 24ppg. Steph eased into his career as a dominant perimeter scorer who was the best player on his team. It happened over time.
Trae Young is right now. His start to this season has been an awesome display of perimeter excellence. He is making 54% of his jumpshots. In the first, second and fourth quarters he is shooting over 50%. He is shooting 66% on long twos. His midrange is nothing special but that is not what he is being paid to do.
The Sixers loss, however, is a cautionary tale. When Young is off, when it is a bad shooting night, then what? How do the Hawks overcome it without a talent equal to Young? Even when the ball isn’t going in, Trae is dropping dimes, so far 9 assists per game. But that is also how to defend Young. Make him into a playmaker and force the Young-ettes to make shots.
One of the knocks on Young is he does turn the ball over. A lot. 7 turnovers against the Sixers with a big Ben Simmons and Jason Richardson trolling the backcourt. 5 turnovers against Orlando and 6 turnovers in the season opener against the Pistons indicate a problem brewing. His turnovers depress all the wonderful things Trae Young does with assists. He is turning the ball over 19%. In his second year, Curry’s turnover percentage was 16%.
The Hawks want to make the playoffs after rebuilding the right way. These are their early numbers.
- 19th in points, 19th in 3point percentage
- 2nd in shooting percentage
- 14th in rebounding
- 19th in blocks
- 10th in steals
- 6th in scoring defense
- 3rd in shooting defense
- 2nd in 3 point defense
They are on the right track with a defensive identity but it comes down to putting the ball in the hole. That is where Trae Young needs help. A lot of it.