After an often rocky beginning to his rookie season, Trae Young has established himself as one of the future stars in the NBA. So much so, that when Young said he and Luka Doncic could be looked at like Magic and Bird someday, it doesn’t sound like someone completely off his rocker.
Young and Doncic are not going to “save the NBA” as Magic and Bird did, but this is one of the genuinely unique trades and storylines in all of basketball. Two players – doubted for two different, prototypical reasons – overcoming the naysayers and emerging to the top of their respective draft class and possibly the entire NBA when it’s all is finished.
Doncic being the undervalued European whose only flaw was where he was born, and Young being the undersized point guard who could not possibly maneuver amongst the trees in the NBA. Both reached unprecedented feats in their respective leagues before being drafted, yet neither were heralded as they should have been – at least not by all the NBA scouts. Doncic helped Real Madrid to a EuroLeague title and won the League MVP at the age of 18. Young led the NCAA in both scoring and assists as a freshman.
It didn’t take two months for Doncic to prove his doubters wrong, and over the entire campaign, he’s put up better rookie numbers of any player since Lebron James. The argument could even be made his rookie year was better than that of James.
Young’s rise took a little bit more time, which should be expected given that he had not played at a pro-level, as Doncic had before. But six months in, Young has lit the NBA world on fire with his scoring and passing, averaging 25.0 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 41.9% from the three-point line since the All-Star break.
Doubters were wrong about both of these players, but they were explicitly off on Young – who became the budding joke among NBA circles because of the deal the Hawks made on draft night. What they missed, including myself, might not have been evident on the court. It’s in his head.
For his entire basketball career: Trae Young has listened to his haters, allowing it to fuel him rather than tear him down. He holds himself to the pedestal that is Steph Curry. He was not just joking about being the best player in last year’s draft. He meant it when he said he was going to be better than Luka Doncic in five to ten years. These are all things Young has alluded to over the past year, and now, he has most of the NBA world looking simple-minded for doubting him.
It’s difficult to tell the future of any NBA player when they enter the draft out of college or internationally. I’ve questioned whether passing over Luka Doncic was the right move. However, one thing that has always kept me positive regarding Trae Young was his relationship with other NBA stars, and how they reacted to him.
Before Young ever competed in the NCAA, let alone the NBA, he was a trending star on social media and continuously seen with NBA players like Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James. Scouts may have thought he was too short or too weak to compete at the highest level, but professionals usually see right through that stuff, and they did so with Trae Young.
When Young lit up the Rockets for 36 points and eight assists back on February 25th, head coach Mike D’Antoni and some of the other players were caught off guard, but not Chris Paul.
“It’s funny because coach and everybody was like, ‘Man he can play.’ I was like, ‘Yeah we knew that,’” Paul said after their first matchup.
After their second meeting on Tuesday, Paul did not mince his words, “He’s one of the most skilled basketball players that you’ll ever see.”
Young’s sudden rise to stardom, along with his fellow teammate, John Collins, has the Hawks in a position few would have imagined at the start of the season. With two potential top ten picks in the upcoming draft, general manager, Travis Schlenk, could opt to be aggressive during the next free agency period that includes names such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leanord, Jimmy Butler and several other All-Stars.
Free Agents have long been allergic to the Hawks franchise. Trae Young is the perfect player to change that with his unselfish style of play and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. The Hawks are now pegged as one of the most fun teams to watch in large part because of what Young has brought to town. For the first time in a long time, there might actually be reciprocated interest in free agency.
As of now, Young’s impact is mostly felt on the floor, but rather quickly, he is changing the culture of this organization and becoming the face of basketball in Atlanta.