I haven’t been the biggest supporter of Trae Young ever since I started watching him at Oklahoma. My favorite team is Texas, so I already disliked the guy just because he went to the rival to my favorite school. People were calling him the “next Steph Curry” in December. I was like really? This short guy is the next Steph? Nah. There’s no way.
We fast-forward to a game in February of last year where Texas played OU. While Young had a good first half, he single-handedly shot his team out of the game late in the second half. Texas ended up winning, and my opinion of Young was that he’s a “trigger-happy flyboy” (shoutout to Poe Dameron).
I watched Young lose a game because he was shooting these insanely long three pointers. Texas’ Mo Bamba would get the rebound, make one pass, and Texas would score on a fastbreak. Long three’s equal long rebounds and opportunities for the opposing team’s fast break. After this game my Trae Young stock was super low. I couldn’t imagine this guy going in the top ten of the draft.
Fast-fowrard to June 21st, NBA Draft night. Young was selected 5th by the Dallas Mavericks, and was then traded to the Atlanta Hawks in return for the draft rights to Luka Doncic and a future first round pick. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk said after the draft that “two of our goals in the next few years here is to accumulate as many assets as we can and to get as much talent as we can.”
Schlenk saw the opportunity to get a guy if not as good, almost as good as Luka Doncic and get a future asset in return. In Schlenk’s mind, this trade was perfect for the Hawks. Instantly after this trade the pressure was put on Trae Young. If he isn’t as good as Luka Doncic then Schlenk will look terrible, and will posssibly lose his job down the line. There’s no denying that the move was risky. Yet, the move took balls (for better or for worse).
Again, we fast-forward to the NBA Summer League. Young’s first few games were less than spectacular. In his first game at Las Vegas Summer League, Young shot 20% from the field, 9% from 3, and had 16 points. Ouch. His second game was not much better, finishing with 31% from the field, 20% from 3, and 12 points. Young’s third game was equally terrible for his shot. Young’s fourth game was solid, shooting 33.3% from both the field and 3-point territory, while finishing with 21 points. Okay, he’s starting to get his shot. Young’s next game however was a very poor shooting night.
At this point you’re probably wondering what the hell am I trying to prove with this article? Well…what I’m trying to prove is that Trae Young’s best ability is not his shot. We’ve all been analyzing him wrong. He isn’t the next Steph Curry. Instead, we should maybe be calling him the next Steve Nash (who was Young’s favorite player growing up).
Young passing ability is elite. I’m not going to sugar coat it. GM Travis Schlenk took Maryland’s Kevin Huerter with the 19th pick. Huerter is the PERFECT guy to put next to Trae Young. Huerter shot 41% from 3 last season. He’s a legit sniper from downtown.
Why is this important?
Well, young is a really good dribble and kick out to the shooter guy. He’s not very good at finishing at the rim, so that ability to pass out to the shooter is really important. Young has the speed to get to the rim and the vision to make a good pass to set up a shooter.
We saw this same thing with LeBron last playoffs (I’m not calling him the next LeBron). That speical ability to drive and kick to shooters is really important for a point guard. Yet, Young was drafted by Atlanta; a team that wasn’t very good. The team shot 36% from 3 last season, which finished for 16th best. Honestly, that’s pretty good for a team that finished with 24 wins.
With Young’s ability to shoot from about anywhere, he makes defenses have to take him seriously. When Young get to about the free throw line, defenders are going to start creeping towards him. This will allow Young to make the dump pass to the big man for the easy bucket.
I think John Collins is going to love playing with Young.
When you’re a good passer you also have good vision. Steve Nash had it, LeBron has it, and Trae, you have that power too. Here’s another example of Young’s vision and passing ability:
The point of this article is to convince you that Young’s best ability as a player is his passing, not his shooting. His shooting has been inconsistent, yet entertaining. Something that’s going to be really important for Young is having head coach Lloyd Pierce be on him about when and where to shoot. Shooting long three pointers with 16 seconds left in the shot clock is not winning offense. I watched every single 3 that Young shot in College. It was quite painful, as almost every 3 he shot was a dribble pull up. This isn’t going to work in the League. 3 pointers that come within the flow of an offense is what wins you games. The emphasis needs to be on play making, rather than shot making.
What will be good for Young is to really work on his finishing around the rim. Young can get to the basket pretty easily, which is why that dribble-kickout is so important. It’s really a great skill of his. If Young can do that type of play, then get the ball back for an open 3, that’s where he’ll excel. He’s a good off the dribble shooter, but those types of players don’t succeed normally in the league. While this isn’t the exact play I’m thinking of, here’s one like it; exemplified by Steph Curry:
Young’s excellent passing ability is going to lead him to create more OPEN 3’s. This is the key word: open. Young is a really good spot up shooter when he actually gets his time to set and catch the ball (which isn’t often, as he’s constantly shooting dribble pull-ups).
Coach Lloyd Pierce is going to be the one who can unlock the potential of Young. His passing and shooting are both skills that can* make him elite. His defense is poor, as are a lot of his decision making skills. He’s pretty good in the pick and roll, but he needs improvement there too as being short will limit his vision. Even with all of this, I still think Young can be a star in the league. I don’t think he’ll ever be the best player on a championship team. The more talent you surround Young with, the better he’s going to be. Even though I used a clip of Steph Curry in regards to a play I’d like the Hawks to run for Young, he’s not the next Steph. If we’re lucky, maybe he can be the next Steve Nash.