In his first season, Trae Young went from a “potential bust” to rookie of the year candidate.
He averaged 19.1 points per game, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
With the Hawks going into a new direction last offseason, the identity of the team had to change. From management on down to the players, nothing was going to be the same in the organization.
On draft day, Travis Schlenk made a move that was criticized by some, and praised by few. He traded for Young, the Oklahoma Sooners product that had just led the nation in points and assists. Coming into the NBA, many thought Young’s game wouldn’t translate to the league, and his body stature would have a negative effect.
Others thought that he could be the next Stephen Curry due to his ability to shoot the three from almost anywhere. It was at that time where Young had a lot to prove, and his journey began in the summer league.
Keep that same energy
It was not a pretty beginning for Young, as he airballed his first two 3-pointers and the hot takes were flying. Everything was evident that he was having jitters in his first game, and it carried over throughout some of the other games as well. It seemed as if he was rushing things and not letting the game come to him, which affected his efficiency.
It was midway through the Summer League where we saw glimpses of what Young could be for the Hawks. His threes were starting to fall, his decision making improved and his playmaking was a sight to see at times. Though he ended the summer on a good note, his season was just beginning.
Welcome to the league
Young had an up and down beginning of the season. He came out in his first game with 14 points and shot 5-of-14 from the field against the New York Knicks. The third game was a different story, as he had 35 points and dished out 11 assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers. From there it looked like Young would be fine, until the end of November/December where he hit his rookie wall.
As the Hawks were on their west coast trip, Young struggled with his game overall. His shots weren’t falling due to teams putting more pressure on him. He was being taken advantage of defensively because of his size on the court. His turnovers also increased, which wasn’t helpful to him or the team.
The only positive you could take from his slump was his playmaking ability. Though Young might struggle at times, his vision and awareness never takes a step back which makes him such a dynamic player.
New year, new Trae
Fast forward to the new year, and we saw a new and improved Trae Young. One of the key components to this was John Collins. Collins and Young built a connection that seemed almost unstoppable to defend at times, and it helped both of their games elevate. Their pick-and-roll game was difficult for teams to stop with Young’s ability to do damage on the perimeter while Collins either popped out or finished in the paint. It wasn’t just Collins that helped Young’s game, but Kevin Huerter also began to come along to be the perfect back court mate.
The end of January was where he really found his game. He had five straight games of 20+ point and 8+ assists games. Four of them were against some good teams in the Western Conference. With everything falling in line for Trae, many started to realize that he could be better than advertised.
With Young and Collins participating in All-Star weekend, it was time to put Atlanta on the map, and that’s what they did. They both had impressive rising star games, but Young was the player that stood out most. He had 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. It was a chance that he could’ve won Rising Stars MVP, but Kyle Kuzma’s scoring was rewarded instead of efficiency.
Young also gave the fans a show in the Skills Challenge, but he fell short in that as well to Jayson Tatum. All in all, Young showed people outside of the Atlanta fan base that he had game, and the early criticism should be put to the rest.
And then it got worse for the critics
Young returned from the All-Star break and went on a tear. He went on another five-game stretch where he looked like best player in the league at that time. He scored 36 points in back-to-back games against solid defensive teams. Players such as Chris Paul and James Harden couldn’t ignore Trae’s hot stretch and showed respect after witnessing first-hand what he was capable of.
The last game of that stretch was his best game of the season, where he had a season-high 49 points and 16 assists in quadruple overtime against the Chicago Bulls. In this game, Trae hit one of the biggest shots of his rookie season, and deemed the city of Atlanta his.
Ladies and gentlemen, this guy is forreal. pic.twitter.com/TlYsDh4tr8— Malik Brown (@_MalikATL) March 2, 2019
From that moment, Young became the cornerstone of the Hawks. Outsiders had no choice but to give credit where it’s due. Young creeped into the Rookie of the year conversation after many people had already written in Luka Doncic as the odds-on favorite. What Young did for the rest of the season put him and the Hawks on the map.
From game winners against the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, from multiple double-doubles, Young gave Atlanta and the NBA something to look forward to. After a successful season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see players come and want to play for the Hawks. The organization has shown that it’s on the rise, and the foundation they have built is going in the right direction.
As for Trae, if players haven’t seen by now, he’s willing to get you the ball. His game as a whole will only improve after this, it will be great to see where he goes from here.
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