Hawks: The Athletic ranks Trae Young just outside the top 20 players in the NBA

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The Athletic is ranking the top 125 players in the NBA right now, and Hawks superstar Trae Young landed just outside the top 20.

This comes after Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter were included in the 80-125 tier, but more impressively, four other Hawks were ranked in the 37-79 tier. Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, and Clint Capela were all scattered through the fourth tier, revealing how deep this roster truly is. Still, even with one of the deepest teams in the Association, the Hawks don’t move the needle without Trae Young.

Fresh off signing a supermax rookie extension that could be worth $207 million if Young makes an All-NBA team, the national media is finally walking back all the hate they spewed about him.

My skepticism of Trae Young has been well-established. However, at this point, it’s probably best to cut my losses, take the L and anoint him as the kind of archvillain (for fans of 29 franchises) the NBA genuinely needs.

Whether it was Nate McMillan’s coaching, the natural maturation and jelling of the Hawks’ roster, a reaction to being left out of the 2021 All-Star roster galvanizing him or most likely a combination of all three, Young started to rein in some of the excesses in his game that gave pause as to his overall effectiveness. They haven’t completely vanished, but the early-clock, zero-pass, 30-foot pull-ups have decreased in frequency.

While he still has a tendency to deactivate when off the ball, Young did show some willingness to use screens during the postseason. And speaking of the postseason, by far the biggest question prior to last season was whether his slight frame and, shall we say, foul-provocative game could stand up to the physical and competitive rigors of the playoffs. After Young led the Hawks to a blistering of the Knicks and a somewhat stunning upset of the Sixers, it’s safe to say those questions have been answered.

Whether Young can ascend into Tier 2 will depend on a number of smaller improvements. Can he continue to refine his shot selection? Will he find ways to be slightly less of a defensive liability than his 755th place ranking (of 755!) in three-year dRAPM suggests he has been? Can he become a more effective player off the ball to allow the talents around him, such as Kevin Huerter and John Collins, to shine a little more? Having learned my lesson, I’m no longer betting against him being able to do so.

Young may be a liability defensively, but his offensive pedigree outweighs the lapses on the other end of the court. He impressively led this young Hawks team to just two games away from the NBA Finals in his first postseason appearance. Rightfully, he’s getting some recognition for that, but I still think this ranking is too low, and he’ll prove that again next season.

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