Have we seen the last of Trae Young with the Hawks?

NBA: JAN 08 Hawks at Clippers

The Hawks delivered some devastating news on Sunday ahead of their matchup with the Orlando Magic, as an MRI revealed Trae Young has torn his radial collateral ligament. He will be re-evaluated in four weeks, which very well could end his season.

The Hawks are still narrowly in the playoff conversation, sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 games ahead of the Nets for the final play-in spot.

It’s a familiar spot for an Atlanta team that has been the definition of mediocrity ever since their Eastern Conference Finals run a few years ago. Perhaps they could have made it out of the play-in tournament for the third year in a row with a healthy Trae Young, but this isn’t a team that’s going to beat one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference.

At this point, the Hawks must take a hard look in the mirror as they look towards the future, a future that may not include Trae Young.

When the Hawks decided against trading Dejounte Murray at the trade deadline, who had been embroiled in trade rumors for months, it opened up Pandora’s box. A multitude of reports have come out since suggesting that they could consider moving Trae Young instead this offseason. 

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported after the trade deadline that “several front offices” that had discussions with Atlanta came away from those conversations with the belief that Young “could become available for trade this summer.” The Lakers and San Antonio Spurs were named as teams that would be interested in the three-time All-Star.

The validity of these rumors is up for debate. Will the Hawks finally start taking calls regarding Trae Young’s availability this offseason seriously? I don’t doubt that. This is a team that has shown zero progress over the last three seasons. They’ve actually regressed despite taking a big swing in a blockbuster trade that landed them Dejounte Murray.

That’s really where things began to go south for the Hawks. Murray’s played well in Atlanta, and he even signed a team-friendly extension with the team this past offseason. But it was a move that was not looked upon fondly by then general manager Travis Schlenk, who was vetoed by ownership. Less than a year later, Schlenk stepped down and head coach Nate McMillan followed him out the door not long after.

The Young and Murray fit has been wonky from the start. They are both ball-dominant players that need the rock in their hands to be at their best. The hope was that Quin Snyder’s offensive mind could squeeze the most out of their talent together. It hasn’t worked.

The Hawks are 25-32 following their win last night over the Magic, a game in which Dejounte Murray looked spectacular without Trae Young, totaling 25 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds.

Murray’s performance down the stretch run of the season as the lead man is going to be the #1 talking point surrounding the Hawks. Some believe Atlanta may desire to build around Murray over Trae Young; others think the Hawks are better without Young altogether.

I’m not one of those people.

Trae Young is a top 20 player in the league and is still ascending. He’s fresh off his third All-Star appearance, has led a team to just a couple of wins away from an NBA Finals appearance, and made an All-NBA team. Anyone still doubting his ability is either a bonafide hater or a fan of another team hoping to land him in a trade this offseason for peanuts.

If you’re the latter, I hate to spoil the surprise, but the Hawks aren’t going to give into lowball offers for Trae Young. They hung onto John Collins for years as trade rumors ran rampant, and they didn’t budge at the deadline this year when teams failed to meet their demands for Dejounte Murray. For better or for worse, they aren’t going to change their ways when it comes to their best player, even if they do make him available this offseason.

Young still has a couple of years remaining on his deal, so the Hawks will not be rushed to make a rash decision. However, Young’s happiness with the organization will be called into question. Many expect him to eventually demand a trade, and who could blame him?

The Hawks have done nothing to make the team around him competitive, yet Young is the guy who shoulders most of the blame as the team underachieves. He’s quickly become one of the most underappreciated stars in the league, and the blame for that lies at the feet of the Hawks decision makers, nobody else.

Now, those same decision makers will be tasked with their biggest challenge to date. Figure out a way to make this dormant roster around Young competent, or sell one of the best players in franchise history to the highest bidder. It’s a brutal spot to be in for an inexperienced front office, but they have nobody to blame but themselves.

It’s very possible we’ve seen the last of Trae Young in a Hawks uniform.

Photographer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire


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