Since 2018, Trae Young has indubitably been the face of the Atlanta Hawks franchise, leading to the hope that he would lead the Hawks to playoff success one day. However, no one expected that success to come so quickly. Now that the Hawks’ season has ended, we’ll look back at each player to evaluate what they excelled in and what they’ll need to improve if the Hawks want to finally reach the NBA Finals, starting with the superstar — Trae Young.
What worked well
Playmaking: When Young first came into the league, he was frequently compared to Steph Curry for their similar size and three-point specialization. But if you’ve watched Young these last three years, then you know his true strength is in his ability to share the ball and make the team around him better. With Young on the court, the offense shot better, the offensive rating was 12.4 points higher, and the team turned the ball over less. He was second in the league in assists, assisting on 45% of the buckets scored by his teammates when he was on the court. These numbers aren’t Steph Curry-like; they’re more like Chris Paul or Isiah Thomas early in their careers.
Getting to the foul line: Love it or hate it, getting to the foul line is a huge part of Young’s game. He was second amongst guards in getting to the line and made the most free throws of any player in the league. That part of his game won’t leave, even if the league implements a rule to get rid of “unnaturally” jumping into defenders. Young is as crafty as any player in the league, and because of that, he’s constantly fouled. He’ll be one of the best in this area until he retires.
Finishing at the rim: This is where Trae is so underrated. In 2020-2021, his two-point percentage was 50%, and 55% of his shots came from inside the three-point line. When Trae shot 0-3 feet from the basket, he made almost 60% of his shots. At the rim is where Trae can get bigger players in foul trouble, score points for himself, get to the free throw line, or pick up an assist.
What needs to be improved
Three-point shooting: Ok, hear me out. Trae is already good at shooting threes, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. He shot 34% in the regular season and 31% in the playoffs from deep. Here is a list of players who shot better than Trae from three this season: Naz Reid, Kyle Kuzma, Jevon Carter, and 130 others. Some of this is poor shot choices and opposing defenses focusing in on him, but some of it is just him continuing to improve as a shooter. Trae needs to be an elite scorer from all three levels if the Hawks want to be perennial championship contenders.
Defense: This is obvious and will probably never go away. The Hawks knew Trae wouldn’t be Gary Payton when they drafted him. However, a defensive rating of 116 is something that can be improved upon. As a team, the Hawks made substantial strides defensively under Nate McMillan, so hopefully, that will translate to more individual success for Trae. In the playoffs, Young’s defensive rating was 112, which would be much more palatable if he could do that over an entire season. The Hawks don’t need him to be a great defender, but it is an area where he must continually focus on improving.