Two nights ago, the Hawks lost to the Hornets 102-94. Gordon Hayward had a career-high 44 points, but it wasn’t his incredible shooting performance that won Charlotte the game. It was the Hawks’ poor offensive performance, particularly their star point guard Trae Young.
Coming into the game, Trae Young was averaging 28.6 points per game and 9.1 assists per game. After the Charlotte game, his averages fell to 25.9 and 8.4, respectively. Obviously, with such a small sample size (eight games), there will be more volatility in all statistics.
Trae Young had seven points on nine field-goal attempts and turned the ball over seven times. His -15 plus/minus was by far and away his worst of the season — 0 +/- against Detroit was his previous low. He had a 48 offensive rating — also the worst of the season — 90 against Cleveland was his previous low. He couldn’t find his deep ball, missing on all three of his three-point attempts, and most of all, the leader in free throw attempts got to the line just three times (of course, he made all three). Nothing went right for Young, offensively or defensively.
But it wasn’t just the statistics; the energy Young showed was disappointing. His demeanor looked off — like he didn’t want to be out there, and who could blame him. The events that occurred in DC that night would have anyone’s mind off basketball, so I will make excuses for this poor performance. But the Hawks are on a three-game losing streak, in which Trae Young has been playing uninspiring basketball.
From Graham Chapple of Peachtree Hoops, “After getting the switch on the screen from Collins, Young gets a decent look from three on the step-back, but the shot doesn’t fall”
But there could be an answer for not only that performance but the last three games. The abysmal showing against the Hornets came after a film session, following a 15-point blown lead in the second half for the second consecutive game in a loss to New York, where John Collins raised issues related to the offense and more specifically Trae Young’s centerpiece role.
Collins talked about the need to get into offensive sets more quickly and to limit all those early shot-clock attempts that leave his teammates on the outside looking in. He shared his desire to be more involved and expressed a desire for more ball involvement and flow on offense.
Chase covered the report from The Athletic, where he noted Collins’ contract situation. “Another thing to keep in mind is John Collins’ contract extension,” Chase said. “He reportedly turned down a deal worth nearly $100 million this offseason and bet on himself, so it is no surprise that he wants to be more involved offensively. ”
Trae Young finished with just seven points on nine FGA over 35 minutes Wednesday.
One Hawks player said he believed the aftermath of Tuesday’s film session – in which John Collins raised issues about the team's offense – carried over into the game. pic.twitter.com/gmKw2wlLSb
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 8, 2021
Trae Young’s comments from the article are very telling. The quote below tells me that he was listening to John Collins and giving him what he wanted. Young seemed disengaged, and it could’ve been him trying to send a message. That message is naive when John Collins played well. He finished with a team-high 23 points on 16 shot attempts, but the Hawks as a team didn’t get the job done.
“Not wanting to force too much,” Young said. “They were hedging hard, and I was just getting off the ball. I just kind of wanted to let everybody else try to make plays. Whenever I got off it, they were face guarding. They were trying to make it tough on me to catch it back. That’s what it was.”
It seems like a stretch to assume Trae was trying to send a message, but there were other signs of discontentment. In the third quarter during a timeout, John Collins tried to encourage the disgruntled Young by putting his arm around him and patting him on the back. Young just walked away.
The Hawks superstar point guard had a miserable game, but the team can’t make the playoffs without him. And though there might be a rift between Atlanta’s two young centerpieces, the team is much better when they are playing together. Through the first eight games, Young and Collins have been churning butter, posting a team-best 16.7 net rating — according to NBA.com’s data.
This is now where Lloyd Pierce needs to intervene. He must be careful, though, as NBA superstars’ egos are as fragile as ever. That all starts with the Hornets tomorrow evening, where we will see just how dysfunctional this relationship really is.