The main man himself, Trae Young, aka Ice Trae (shoutout Quavo), is next up in our player preview series. Trae is the best player on the Hawks, arguably the best shooter in the NBA, and one of the world’s best offensive creators. He is finally part of a team with plenty of talent and veteran players to help the Hawks make a playoff push. Can he be the leader they need him to be?
Trae has been in the spotlight for quite some time now. As a teenager at Norman North High School in Norman, Oklahoma, he became one of the best guards in the nation, averaging over 40 points per game in his senior season. That’s ridiculous. Do you know how hard it is to score that many points every night? Really, really hard. I scored in the double digits of my high school career only a handful of times. Sick brag.
Sorry, back to Trae; as a consensus 5-star recruit and McDonald’s All American, he began to garner comparisons to the Warriors Steph Curry. There were certainly similarities, as they are both incredible shooters while being undersized guards. The Trae Young hype train continued in his freshman season at Oklahoma when he stormed right out the gate putting up a 43 point and 7 assist performance against Oregon.
He was named to the first-team All-Big 12 and a consensus All-American in his freshman season before forgoing the rest of college and entering the NBA Draft, where he will be remembered forever as the guy the Hawks traded for Luka Doncic. I’m sorry, Atlanta, but it’s true. One of the most inexcusable trades of the last decade was the Hawks trading the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to Dallas for the 5th pick and a first-round pick in 2019, which became Cam Reddish. Atlanta traded Luka for Trae Young and Cam Reddish. Yikes. Doncic has the potential to be one of the best players in NBA history, and he showcased that potential in the NBA bubble. He is also the favorite to win MVP this year. None of this is Trae Young’s fault, though, but it’s tough to look at what Luka is doing in Dallas and not be upset that he could have been an Atlanta Hawk.
Back to Trae, he stepped up in his rookie season and was part of the First-Team All-Rookie squad in 2019 before becoming an All-Star Game starter in 2020. He went from 19 points per game as a rookie to 29 points per game last season. He is an offensive force who has unlimited range, crafty finishing skills, and elite passing ability. His ability to stretch defenses with his shooting range is rare, and it’s why he’s such a gifted scorer. However, his defense leaves much to be desired as he is undersized for his position, lacking the strength and foot speed to keep up with the quick guards in the NBA.
The expectations for Trae this season are quite high. With all of the additions the Hawks made, his scoring average will probably dip 4-5 points per game, but that is a good thing! His assists numbers will remain the same or even increase from the 9.3 he averaged a year ago. Young’s efficiency will likely improve this year as well. With plenty of proven scorers around him, he shouldn’t have to work as hard to create his shot, leading to more makes. Young could easily be a 25-point and 10-assist man if everything goes well, which would put him in a rarified class.
Defensively, I expect Trae to improve across the board… hopefully. It takes time to learn how to play defense at the NBA level, and we just have to hope and pray he is working on how to become a better NBA defender. Opposing teams know he is a liability on that side of the floor, and they try to exploit him as he was statistically the worst defending point guard in the NBA last season.
All signs are pointing upwards as the Hawks could make a playoff push this season, and Trae Young is at the center of those conversations. He is the All-Star and face of the franchise. If he’s at his best, the Hawks should exceed all expectations.