The Hawks finally have a player the city can rally around.
I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll go ahead and admit it again. I was not a fan of the Draft night trade that saw Trae Young come to Atlanta. Admittedly, I am not a College Basketball guy. Yes the stats were nice but I didn’t think his game could translate.
I was wrong.
Fast forward a few days from the Draft, the Hawks made their Summer League debut and Trae struggled big time. By this time however, I had actually watched tape and noticed something special. This guy was a passing wizard.
The whispers of “bust”, “not good” etc grew to shouts from fans and the media as Trae continued to struggle in Utah.
…Keep that same energy🙏🏽💯
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) July 4, 2018
After a rough outing in Utah, the now famous phrase “Keep that same energy” was derived. Young would pick things up a bit in Vegas but the damage was done. All the Twitter GMs and ESPN/Bleacher reports had labeled him a bust.
Fast forward to Preseason and the glimpses of confidence and chemistry with John Collins was evident before John went down.
In just his third career game, Young announced himself to the NBA world. With the Hawks suffering back to back blowouts to start the season, Trae put the team on his back in Cleveland dropping 35 Points leading the Hawks to win number one.
A few nights later, the Hawks would welcome Luka and the Mavs to town. For three quarters it looked like Atlanta had made a terrible mistake, but Trae would finish strong again willing the team to victory.
November would bring rookie struggles. During a putrid stretch, Young couldn’t buy a basket. Trae recorded a 16 game stretch of 35% shooting from the floor and a sour 20% from three. But through it all, his ability to drive to the hole, get fouled and find the open man was still at a high level. He didn’t let his shooting define him. During that stretch he also still averaged 14 PPG and 8 APG which for a rookie Point Guard in the NBA is very respectable.
This now famous postgame quote from Austin Rivers was very telling. After Washington defeated Atlanta in a game where Trae struggled Rivers was asked about the rookie. He said “He’s 23 percent but I treat him like Steph or Dame”.
The lack of talent on the Hawks also handicapped Trae early on. Often times it appeared he was too fast for the rest of the team or they wouldn’t be ready for his passes. Countless times Trae would set his man up perfectly for a wide open three only for it to be missed.
At a time where many young players may have lost their confidence or will to shoot, Trae kept pushing. He did however reduce his attempts for a while.
Since January 4th, Trae Young has scored in double figures in every single game except for a cold night in Chicago where he still had a huge impact with 12 Assists. It was also one of the only blowout victories for Atlanta this season. While his January numbers were very good, it was only an appetizer for what was about to come.
23.3 PPG | 41% FG | 3.2-7.3 3PM-3PA 43.7% | 4.3 RPG | 9.3 APG
Those aren’t Steph Curry’s numbers. Those are Trae Young’s number during the month of February. These are elite numbers any way you spin it. And for the people who say “well, the Hawks suck”, actually the Hawks have been playing solid ball since December. At one point Atlanta was 6-23. Since they’re 15-19. That’s borderline playoff worthy in the East if extrapolated across the season.
The chemistry Young has displayed with his teammates, especially John Collins, is impressive for a player who can’t even buy his own alcohol. The league and media is taking notice.
For months, any time Luka Doncic did anything it would be plastered everywhere. Even when Trae started his hot streak, those outlets were silent. Trae noticed. That’s a big source of his motivation.
During All Start Weekend in Charlotte, the dynamic duo of Trae and John were featured in the Rising Stars game. While Young didn’t start the game, he surely finished. He dazzled with 25 Points and 10 Assists.
He was also robbed of MVP.
Trae finished runner up in the Skill’s Competition which included defeating our good friend Luka Doncic.
I have a sneaky suspicion that we’ll see Trae heavily involved with All Star Weekend for some time to come.
I think it’s fair to say being around all the stars motivated Trae.
Since the All Star Break (5 Games)
4.6-9.4 3PM-3PA 49%
This includes out-dueling reigning MVP James Harden Monday night and going absolutely nuclear Friday night against Chicago.
This week has seen Trae join some exclusive company while breaking numerous Hawk and Rookie records.
- 2nd player ever with 49 Points and 16+ Assists in a single game (James Harden)
- Three highest Rookie point totals this season (36,36,49)
- Third Rookie ever to compile 40 Points and 10 Assists in a game (MJ, LeBron)
- Fourth Rookie since the merger to have 35+ Points in 3 straight games
- First Rookie ever with 45 Points and 15 Assists in a game
- Most points in Hawks Rookie history
- Most points by a Hawk since 2001-02
- Scored or assisted on 86 Points. Most by a Rookie in NBA history
49 PTS | 16 AST | 8 REB | 6 3PM@TheTraeYoung scores the most points by a rookie this season and sets an @ATLHawks rookie franchise points record in the @ATLHawks 4OT thriller! #NBARooks #TrueToAtlanta pic.twitter.com/2RH8bdCNnq
— NBA (@NBA) March 2, 2019
Relive all the action with that mini-movie from the NBA.
While it may be too late to change enough minds to win Rookie of the Year, the conversation has at least been re-opened.
What will Trae Young do next?
As a Hawks season ticket member, I am at most games. Perhaps the most incredible part of this season has been being able to see, hear and feel the energy increase in StateFarm Arena almost nightly. The last few games have brought back memories of those 60 win team crowds.
The excitement is back. For the first time in a while, I’m anxious leading into each game because I don’t know what will happen next! The league will take notice too. Having only one National TV game this year, I’d be willing to bet that we’ll see at least eight next year.
As Trae Young, John Collins and the rest of the team continue to grow and develop we will see the Hawks depart from the basement of the attendance ranks.
This summer, the Hawks will probably have two lottery picks. Their own, which could potentially be the number one pick if the lottery balls swing our way and the Mavericks pick. When scrutinizing the Trae Young / Luka Doncic deal, novices often forget that we also receive the Mavericks 1st round pick granted it falls outside the top five. Right now, the Mavs are around the 9th spot which would give about a 75% chance of the pick conveying. In another piece, I’ll detail the numbers and look ahead to how the Hawks could fare in the Draft Lottery.
With the team performing better than expected as of late, whispers have started to surface that the Hawks may even go after Free Agents this summer. While GM Travis Schlenk mentioned around the deadline that this summer would still be about future flexibility, the magnetism of Trae Young could attract players.
While Atlanta has never been a spot where players wanted to play, we also never had a Point Guard who can find you in your spot at all times. We also had horrible ownership for years but that’s another story for another day.
Regardless of what happens this summer, the Atlanta Hawks are in good hands going forward.
For now though, let’s enjoy what these final few games bring us. Come on down to StateFarm Arena, because you never know what will happen next. It’s time to jump back on the bandwagon. Tomorrow doesn’t just start today, tomorrow is today. #KeepThatSameEnergy
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Phil Veasley | @_ATLPhil Twitter | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG
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