There probably weren’t two players more talked about leading up to draft night than Luka Doncic and Trae Young, and for comparable reasons. Despite wildly different backgrounds, both were surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty.
Doncic became the youngest ever to win the EuroLeague MVP at 19 years old, yet many still doubted him because of his European descent. Similarly, Young was the first player ever to lead the NCAA in both scoring and assists. Not to mention, he was just a freshman, but people were hesitant to get too excited because of his 6’2″, 180-pound frame.
That’s why, when the Hawks decided to trade Luka Doncic (3rd overall pick) for Trae Young (5th pick) and a 2019 top-5 protected first-round selection from the Mavericks, it sent social media into a frenzy. Everyone was quick to offer their opinion about who won the trade, and while obviously that could never be known at the time, one thing was clear: The careers of these two players will forever be linked.
Whatever one side does, the other is going to hear about it, and Mavs fans got an earful last night.
Trae Young lit Cleveland on fire as the Cavs took their home floor for the first time without Lebron James. That worked to the Hawks advantage, who fell down quickly 22-7, only to turn things around in the second quarter behind 18 points from Young. Atlanta outscored Cleveland 109-77 in the final three quarters.
Young finished the game with 35 points and 11 assists, becoming the first rookie since Steph Curry to put up a game of 35+ points and 10+ assists. A fitting way for him to make his mark given the numerous comparisons between him and Curry coming into the league.
Luka Doncic has not been too shabby either. He finished with 26 points and 6 rebounds in his most recent showing with Dallas. However, after what happened last night, I don’t want to hear about him for at least a week.
This week belongs to Young, who is proving already to be well worth the 5th overall pick. Outside of his brilliant scoring ability, he showed off the playmaking that makes him so special. His shot draws the attention of multiple defenders once he passes half court, leaving teammates constantly open around the rim. From there, it just takes the right basketball IQ and willingness to make the right play, which Young already possesses three games into his NBA career.
Most importantly, his attitude and focus on getting better are exactly where you want it for a top draft pick. Every time you hear him talk, he is constantly saying the right things. In a key matchup with another top point guard taken in the draft, Collin Sexton, Young proved to be the much more composed player.
Cleveland’s coach, Tyronn Lue, said after the game that he thought his rookie point guard took the matchup with Young “personal”, which led to his 2 of 11 performance from the field for just 4 points.
On the other hand, Young kept quiet and let his play do the talking. It was a playmaking show Hawks fans have not seen in a long time. If this is a sign of things to come, the rebuild in Atlanta may be a lot shorter than people expected.