The majority of Atlanta Hawks fans wanted Luka Dončić at No. 3 in the NBA Draft, but things didn’t shake out that way. The franchise instead ended up with Trae Young and potentially a 2019 first-round pick (lottery-protected). However, the former freshman phenom for the Oklahoma Sooners is the best guard in this draft to play on this side of the Atlantic. That feels like hedging. Let me explain.
1. The entertainment value is through the roof
You can make an argument for Alabama guard Collin Sexton and European heartthrob Dončić, as I’m sure your neighborhood barber will, but only Young was out here making history. Averaging 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game misses that he averaged a double-double for most of the season.
If he’d had teammates who could knock down the open shots he made for them with his ability to attack the rim and find shooters on the wings, Oklahoma would’ve made a deep run into the tournament and possibly ended up in the Final Four the second time in three years.
”My ability to pass is something I feel is very underrated,” Young said. “I’m excited for me to see that’s what they really like about me.”
It’s tough to believe that a player who dished out 22 dimes in a single game has a knack for passing that flies under the radar, but here we are.
So what we have here is a guy with court vision that rivals some of the great point guards in NBA history as well as some Curry-esque range. He may turn it over from time to time when he tries to do too much (he led the nation in that category, after all), and he’s never going to be a great defender, but the games sure as hell won’t be boring. Atlanta folks have been watching boring basketball for far too long, so he should be a breath of fresh air.
As it is, Hawks fans will get to see what it looks like for Young to have a few decent shooters and scorers on the floor with him (something he didn’t always have as a freshman in Norman) in Kent Bazemore (maybe), Taurean Prince and rookie Kevin Huerter (because Dennis Schroeder probably won’t be sporting Hawks colors in 2018-19).
You can read Young’s draft profile here.
2. He’s arriving with a chip on his broadening shoulders
You’re reading this because you know Atlanta had Dončić in its clutches and let him go to Dallas for this guy? This guy who hasn’t been a professional since he began puberty? Who hasn’t won titles in Europe, let alone the NCAA?
Like Young doesn’t know the Atlanta front office bet on him and not Dončić. Like he’s not walking into the gym knowing he’s the major piece in what will be a rebuilding effort on par with what the Philadelphia 76ers have had to do over years. Yeah, Young knows. And he’s likely to show up with an attitude that reflects how much he listens to haters.
You also have to remember that Young wasn’t considered a one-and-done candidate as a high school prospect. He heard the criticisms about his size and decided to make up for that by polishing his game in plenty of other areas. Before too long, he was the talk of the basketball world. He’s added about 15 pounds to his frame since the beginning of the summer, so you’re getting a guy who’s committed to bettering himself.
3. He’s the most marketable player in the draft
Sneaker heads watched with bated breath as Young sifted through every shoe company from Nike to Crocs before settling on a reported $1.8 million deal with Adidas because “they offered the most.” Makes me wish Crocs would’ve stepped their game up.
And because his game has garnered so many comparisons to Steph Curry, Atlanta fans can count on folks showing up just to see Young play. This is how Golden State began to rebuild their franchise into a juggernaut. All you need is more Quavo calls.
Atlanta has Quavo.
The Migos frontman (who had Young and Russell Westbrook onstage in OKC last spring) tweeted it into existence on June 12. On June 21, Young said Quavo was one of the first to reach out with a congratulatory text.
“Quavo texted me, and he’s really excited,” he said. “Lecrae texted me.”
There’s your name-drop — two of them actually. Now just throw him the ball and watch what he does with it.