When the NBA announced it would change its foul shooting rules, fans immediately cast their eyes on a shortlist of players. Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden may have been the first player who crossed their mind. The second one would probably be Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. Through just four years in the league, the young man has learned to stretch (or manipulate) the rules to his advantage. Getting to the foul line was became as easy as dribbling the ball.
Now, under the league's adjusted rules, Hawks haters have observed Young, and his team are starting to struggle a bit. After their unexpected trip to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, many believed the Hawks would become Kings of the East this year. However, they're currently in seventh place in the eastern conference. Young, for his part, is averaging just 5.6 free-throw attempts per game. Last year, he went to the charity strike 8.7 times. The season prior, he went to the free-throw line a whopping 9.3 times.
For Young's critics, the numbers are crystal clear. The Hawks guard relies on bending the rules to his advantage to get his buckets. In terms of actual skill, critics are not too impressed with Young. But as always, someone will step up to defend their favorite player. In Young's case, his father, Ray Young, reminded everyone of how his son got into the NBA in the first place.
We can accuse Young's dad of being biased. But if we follow his instructions and check the Hawks guard's statistics in college, we'll understand what he means. Young averaged 27.4 points per game in his lone year at Oklahoma on 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent from deep. He also went to the free-throw line 8.6 times. You can't accuse Young of foul baiting in college as referees at that level do care if you're a star player.
Trae Young's dad wants his son to be respected. This year, the Hawks are struggling because they are playing in a very tough league where nothing is given. The NBA's new rules have nothing to do with it. Young powered his team to greater heights through sheer skill and dedication. And it's these similar tools that will carry lift them through the rut again.