MINNEAPOLIS — The game clock just ticked under two minutes in overtime when John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon trapped Karl-Anthony Towns along the right baseline during Friday night’s Atlanta Hawks/Minnesota Timberwolves matchup.
The remainder of the Hawks zone slowly closed its zone in on Towns and Minnesota to force another turnover before Dario Saric swooped over to help his front court teammate. Saric immediately caught the ball and slung it to Robert Covington, who had since the beginning of the sequence sneaked behind Atlanta’s closing zone for a wide open dunk. Covington missed it, which was his second missed dunk of the night coming down the stretch.
Dedmon quickly corralled the ball and handed it off to rookie point guard Trae Young, who was heading down the court in full speed. Young was heading down the court so fast that it took a moment for him to gain control of the ball. He took two steps beyond the timeline, a gather step and let 30-footer fly in transition. Young stood in place after the follow through and squatted to watch the ball sink for a basket that gave the Hawks the lead.
It was his only 3-point attempt of the night.
A minute later, Atlanta, still leading by one, inbounded the ball and eventually got it in the hands of Kevin Huerter, who had a couple of screens give him some room. Huerter took a couple of dribbles to the right wing and pulled up for a 3-point a couple of feet behind the line. Bottoms.
Huerter’s second 3-pointer of the night iced the win for Atlanta, despite a controversial no-call on Atlanta-native and Wolves rookie Josh Okogie on the final play of the game.
Meanwhile, the talk of the night and social media around the league was Luka Doncic. The rookie sensation poured in a career-high 34 points against the New Orleans Pelicans for the Dallas Mavericks. His most viral score came against Jrue Holiday in the third quarter, when Doncic went behind the back twice and hit a step back in Holiday’s face at the shot clock buzzer.
The play, and the career-high, signaled another round of “I can’t believe the Hawks traded Luka for Trae Young” tweets.
Luka Doncic for Trae Young may go down as the worst trade in the history of sports.— Via (@PoloTeee) December 29, 2018
For the record, Young’s career-high was 35, which came with 11 assists and six rebounds as opposed to Doncic’s 34, three assists and two rebounds stat line that he posted in the loss to New Orleans.
Friday night marked the 11th double-double of the season for Young. The feat tied him with James Harden for fifth-most double-doubles in the league from a point guard. This put him ahead of Kyrie Irving, De’Aaron Fox, John Wall, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and Doncic (not a point guard) in the category.
Young’s biggest critiques have come from his inefficiency on defense and shooting the ball.
Defense a problem?
On defense, let’s take Kevin Durant for example. As of Saturday morning, Durant ranks 250th in the league with a 106.2 defensive rating. Both Young and Doncic fall under that mark, with Doncic standing at 108.0 and Young at 110.5. The advantage for Doncic in that department is that he makes up for a lot of his defensive shortcomings on the offense, with a 108.2 offensive rating, while Young is at 99.9 on offense.
Over the last three games, as of Saturday morning, Doncic has shot 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc, while Young has shot 44 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. Young has dealt with his early shooting struggles by taking fewer shots and making better decisions on the offensive end of the ball. He has racked up 26 assists compared to 14 turnovers in that span.
He’s making all the right reads and not settling for the jumper. He’s noticed his cotton candy is between 18 feet and in. ✌🏽 https://t.co/ei8Ngf50Ej— Rashad Phillips (@RP3natural) December 29, 2018
Doncic has remained aggressive through his poor shooting nights, taking an average of 17 shots compared to Young’s 12 in the small sample size. Doncic had 19 assists and six turnovers in the span.
If you don’t see the trend by now, then allow me to state the obvious: You can’t compare Young and Doncic.
The notion that you can compare a score-first 6-foot-7 small forward and a 6-foot-2 pass-first point guard is ridiculous. As WNBA All-Star and ESPN NBA Analyst Chiney Ogwumike articulated on “First Take,” Doncic and Young play two different brands of basketball. The speedy Young plays with a pace of 108.61, while Doncic’s chess-over-checkers strategy on the offensive end allows him to play at a pace of 102.60. First-year head coach Lloyd Pierce has repeatedly said that he wants the Hawks to take advantage of their youth and push the ball as much as possible.
Not that far apart
Doncic leads all rookies in points per game, while Young leads the rookies in assists per game. Both players have hit big shots at the end of games and both players are on sub-.500 teams so far this season.
The idea that Doncic is that much further than Young and that Young is a bust is simply untrue. The idea that the Hawks, who are also projected to land another lottery pick from Dallas in 2019, made one of the worst deals in NBA history by trading for one of the better rookies in the league this season and getting another top prospect next season, is flat out vacuous.
In 2019, it’s time for Hawks and NBA fans alike to push the narrative that the 2018 draft night deal set Atlanta’s franchise years back, aside. Atlanta currently has two very good rookies in Young and Huerter, with second-year power forward Collins putting up some of the best numbers in the league since returning from an ankle injury.
In 2019, Hawks and NBA fans alike need to appreciate the performances we’re seeing from both Young and Doncic, as well as the rest of this good 2018 draft class.
In 2019, although many people won’t, it’s time to let that hurt go over Doncic being traded on draft night. It happened, and both players are having solid showings as rookies with their respective franchises…the Hawks just happen to get one more player from it.
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