The Wild One

Being mentioned in the same breath with Luka Doncic normally would be a good thing, but the connection to the NBA’s new darling has served as a source of motivation to Trae Young to prove all doubters wrong.

Young has turned himself into the leader of the Atlanta Hawks after a historical collegiate career. And slowly but surely, the 21-year-old guard is showing the league that Hawks management didn’t make a blunder for the ages.

Atlanta drafted Doncic with the third pick of the 2018 NBA Draft for the Dallas Mavericks, who then selected Young fifth and traded him and a future first-rounder to the Hawks for the player now simply known around the league as Luka.

“That is one of the five worst trades of the century,” NBA expert Bill Simmons said on before either player had even stepped onto an NBA court and before anyone could have imagined that Doncic would so soon become a legitimate MVP candidate.

But question marks were nothing new for Young.

“I remember coming into high school, coming into college, they were saying, ‘He’s too small.’ Coming into the league, ‘He’s too small. He has bust potential,” the 6-foot 1-inch Young told Yahoo! Sports. “And whenever they stop talking just about me, they start talking about the organization and talking about how they made the worst decision and how it could be the worst trade in NBA history. That all motivates me, for sure. There are little things that stick with me.”

Fast forward to this season and Young’s message to his past critics on Twitter on November 13, 2019 was pretty clear, going all caps with: “YOUR APOLOGY NEEDS TO BE AS LOUD AS THE DISRESPECT WAS”. That came after Young drained eight three-pointers in scoring 42 points to go with 11 assists in a 125-121 road win over the Denver Nuggets.

“It was just the Trae Young show for 48 minutes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after seeing Young score 11 points in the final six and a half minutes.

Young is averaging 29.3 points and 9.3 assists this season and he is not that far off from matching a historic feat from his single season with the Oklahoma Sooners, when he became the first player in history to lead the NCAA in points (27.4ppg) and assists (8.7apg) in a single season.

Young, who last year became only the third rookie in NBA history to collect at least 18 points and 8 assists, is currently third in scoring in the NBA and second in assists in his hunt to match Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who in 1972-73 averaged 34.0 points and 11.4 assists for the Kansas City-Omaha Kings as the only player to lead the NBA in scoring and assists.

Many think of Steph Curry when they look at Young but Steve Nash was Young’s idol and Young even got a chance to train with the two-time NBA MVP last off-season.

“We’re as similar as players from different eras can be,” Nash told the Undefeated. “He has wonderful vision and passing ability. But he is also a great scorer, shooter. He is growing up in an era where point guards have more of the liberty to attack first. If he had grown up in my era, he might have been a pass-first point guard because he has an incredible eye for it.”

Not unlike Nash, Young’s weakness is defense. Young currently ranks 496th of 497 NBA players in defensive real plus-minus. Things are much better on offense where he is fifth in offensive real plus-minus – right behind Luka Doncic.

There it is again … Trae Young being mentioned in the same breath as Luka Doncic.


by FIVE Magazine #166 – Trae Young – Text: Manuel Baraniak

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