Today, the NBA is filled with young talent and future superstars, but one of the most prominent players out of the bunch is Trae Young. The Hawks point guard was a national star already during his high school and college days, as all that hype made him the 5th pick in the 2018 Draft. We can safely say that all the commotion around Trae was warranted, as he has already established himself amongst the game’s elite point guards.
His impeccable shooting ability, mixed with a sweet handle and great feel for distributing the ball, allowed “Ice Trae” to easily find his place in the fast-paced, offense-oriented NBA. The fact he got traded on draft day for Luka Dončić, and nobody considers it a mistake, says all you need to know about Young fulfilling the high expectations and pressure set for him.
At the start of his career, Trae showed right away he could score and distribute with the best of them, but with some evident flaws. The percentages, turnovers, and inconsistency were a real issue, as with any young player learning the NBA game. That led to the Atlanta Hawks being uncompetitive for a few seasons before finally taking a huge step forward last year.
Even though the season started off disappointingly, a mid-season coaching change completely shifted their season around. Lloyd Pierce was controversially fired, and veteran head coach Nate McMillan stepped in the challenging situation to get Trae and the Hawks going. It was a considerable risk without too much optimism on the horizon. But as fate would have it, the Hawks stepped up, got into the playoffs at the fifth seed led by their young star Trae Young, who ended the season averaging 25.3 ppg and 9.4 apg.
That wouldn’t be the end, as the Hawks managed to upset the Knicks and the Sixers, making it to the ECF, where they fell short to the championship Bucks in six games. Still, it was a huge success of a season, as the city of Atlanta finally had a good playoff team able to play against anybody led by a rising superstar. The best thing they got out of their run was Trae showing he could deliver in the playoffs at just 22 years of age.
After displaying flashes in his first two and a half seasons, Trae finally put it all together when coach McMillan took over. The efficiency started to rise, and Young became more of a playmaker than a scorer, trusting his teammates and making them better. A move crucial in becoming a truly elite player and winner, as McMillan compared Trae’s improvement to MJ’s back in the day with an interesting analogy:
“He’s got one of those fast cars. You can’t drive that car the same way on a sunny day as you can when it’s raining and snowing out there. And he was playing fast. He was taking the same shots that he was taking in the first quarter and in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t adapting to conditions… It’s similar to Michael Jordan when he first came into the league. He started to trust his teammates. And then he started winning championships.”Nate McMillan, Sports Illustrated
McMillan is correct, as Jordan was a way different player when he came into the league. An incredibly talented individual that believed he could do it all alone. But it wasn’t until he started trusting his teammates and playing team basketball that Jordan became the champion and the legend he is today. If Young manages to continue working on that team mentality mixed with his elite skill, we could have another great in the making. His head coach certainly believes that.