The Atlanta Hawks have provided hardly anything to get excited about this season. The 60-win team of 2015 is so far in the past – there is no telling what I would give for a time machine – that those good memories are beginning to fade, as the Hawks transition with this young team. (see what I did there).
Atlanta currently possesses the 28th best defense in the league with an abysmal defensive rating of 113.8, placing them only above the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards. Atlanta ranks 28th in defensive rebounds, last in opponents points off turnovers, and last in turnovers, giving up 17 a game. Lloyd Pierce has also experienced his fair share of growing pains as a young head coach. And one of our highly coveted first-round selections, Cam Reddish, has yet to hit his stride (although I have no doubt that he will). All of this, combined with a John Collins suspension for PEDs, has made this a year to forget.
Eventually, this team will look much improved, and in years, perhaps they are even better than the sixty win team we remember so fondly. But so far, this season has been hell to watch for Hawks’ fans, and besides the angelic voices of Bob Rathbun and Dominique Wilkins, there is only one thing keeping supporters turning on their televisions every night like the jokers we are: Rayford Trae Young.
The Phenomenon that is Trae Young
Trae Young is in a video game through 30 games this season. He averages 28.5 points per contest and 8.3 assists per game. He is every bit the playmaker that Travis Schlenk envisioned when he acquired him on draft day, and along with his boost in scoring in year two, he’s become substantially more efficient. His 3-point shooting is up from .324 to .366 and overall field goal percentage from .418 to .443. That is pretty good when you consider he is currently 4th in scoring and 5th in assists.
As someone who watches Trae Young every night this dreadful Hawks team takes the court, it seemed to be understood that he would be an All-Star starter, but I’ve had my fair share of arguments with some dull headed NBA fans over the past few weeks. However, it appears like those are the few rather than the many because, as of today, Young is the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards – a well-deserved honor. But I’m still going to address the non-believers who don’t watch this 21-year-old superstar on a nightly basis.
Young is not better than most guards in the East… C’mon…
First, I want to bring up the competition. The backcourt in the Eastern Conference has very talented players, but none of which deserve this spot more so than Trae. Ben Simmons was long thought to be the next Lebron James type superstar, but his lack of development on the offensive end takes him out of the running for the best guard in the East. Hell, Young is averaging almost double the amount of points than him per game.
Kemba Walker, another stellar point guard in his own right, still isn’t putting up quite the same numbers as the Hawks second-year star. Young leads Walker in nearly every single category besides wins (something Trae doesn’t have that much control over when surrounded by a severe lack of talent). Walker averages 22.6 PPG on 43.1 % shooting while Young averages 29.0 PPG on 44.3 % shooting. Walker averages 5.3 APG while Young averages 8.5 APG. Just as a cherry on top, Trae even collects more rebounds per game than Kemba, but I will say Walker is much better at holding the ball than Young.
While players like Jimmy Butler, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Malcolm Brogdon all provide their separate arguments, they all fail in comparison to Young’s achievements. Keep in mind the All-Star game is about individual achievements. The only real competition for the top guard spot in the East is Bradley Beal, who is averaging 27.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 6.7 APG on 43.6% shooting. This might turn out to be his best season as a pro, and yet he’s still not quite doing what Young is on a nightly basis. Yes, Trae’s team is terrible, but individually, he’s already an NBA superstar – and there is no argument about it.
Trae doesn’t win… (a hybrid cross of Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Shaq couldn’t lead this team to wins)
Just because his team is losing doesn’t mean Trae Young is not an All-Star caliber player. This is the most ludicrous argument I have ever heard in terms of a selection for the prestigious game in Chicago. When selecting an MVP, I completely understand the reasoning for team wins, but for an All-Star, it is ridiculous. Kyrie Irving made his first All-Star game averaging 22.5 PPG and 5.9 APG while his team finished 24-58. Michael Jordan was selected to an All-Star game in his second year with a team that finished 38-44. Demarcus Cousins was averaging 24.1 PPG and 12.7 RPG when he went to his first All-Star game. In that 2014-2015 season, the Kings finished 29-53. The All-Star game was created to recognize the achievements of individual players. To write off Trae’s unbelievable start to the season because he is playing with a borderline college roster is the definition of insanity.
Trae doesn’t play defense
Finally, his defense. I’m probably one of the few Atlanta Hawks fans bold enough to address that our knight in shining armor does have his flaws. Young’s defense has been abysmal this season. ESPN’s RPM rating put Trae 434th out of the 434 players qualified. That is a scary sight.
However, Young was always going to be a project defensively, and it does not help that he has a putrid defense around him and is asked to carry a ridiculous load offensively every night out. There has to be some fatigue due to his high usage rate, and it shows on that side of the ball. As better players are put around him, his defense will also improve. Don’t expect him to become Chris Paul, but he is not the worst defender in the NBA. And no amount of poor defense should deter from the near 30 points and 10 assists he puts together nightly, playing with a supporting cast that is reminiscent of the Washington Generals.
Young’s already the best guard in the Eastern Conference, doing things no other guard can do on this side of the country, and he deserves to be the starting at the point on February 16th.