The postseason is a small sample size, but it separates the men from the boys, and Trae Young has established himself as a superstar. Everybody knows what he brings to the table offensively — nearly 30 points with more than 10 assists — but the Hawks were never going to take the next step as a team if he didn’t make a conscious effort to improve defensively. Young’s done that, and it’s delivered some supreme results for the Hawks in the playoffs.
According to NBA Math’s TPA (Total Points Added) Model, Young has been slightly above average defensively this postseason.
The Atlanta Hawks have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Here's how all members of the team have fared on both ends of the floor during the 2021 #NBA playoffs, per TPA. pic.twitter.com/ThCbXUEl0g
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) June 21, 2021
As you can see, the TPA Model puts him ahead of several Hawks and right on par with John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic, who most would call some of Atlanta’s best defenders. Now, I wouldn’t call this model anywhere near perfect. After all, it has De’Andre Hunter as the team’s worst defensive player, which is almost unfathomable considering how big of an impact he had on that end of the court against the Knicks. On the other hand, it does recognize Kevin Huerter as the team’s best defender during the postseason, which is undeniably correct.
However, the chart nixes yet another faulty narrative surrounding Young that he’s constantly getting taken advantage of defensively. Young’s never going to be an elite defender; he’s never going to be asked to guard’s the opponent’s best player. This chart proves that he can be hidden and gives enough effort to hold his own on that end of the court. This is an area of his game that should only improve as he grows older, and he’ll need that to happen quickly because the Bucks offense will likely provide the most formidable test for him in these playoffs.