If you follow NBA basketball, I’m sure you’ve heard the debate of who should win the Rookie of the Year award. It is between Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks.
The relationship between these two started even before the NBA season started. On draft night, Atlanta drafted Luka with the third pick but traded him to Dallas who drafted Trae with the fifth pick. Atlanta also received Dallas’ future first round pick. Many people were skeptical as to why Atlanta would do this. That draft night trade will forever link Trae Young and Luka Dončić.
Luka started the season hot, while Trae struggled early on. Before the all star break, Luka averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 assists, and 7.2 rebounds per game. He shot 43% from the field and 34.8% from three. Trae averaged 16.9 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. He shot 40.6% from the field and 31.2% from three. Everyone was raving over Luka, comparing him to greats like LeBron James. Critics were very quick to call Trae Young a bust. Most people already gave Dončić the Rookie of the Year honor.
The switch got flipped for Trae Young after the all star break. He wasn’t just one of the hottest rookies in the league, he was one of the hottest players in the league. His numbers were 24.7 points, 9.2 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. He shot 44% from the field and 34.8% from three. Luka’s numbers stayed relatively the same.
Trae’s numbers don’t tell the entire story though. He became one of the leagues premier clutch performers. Young was the only rookie in the NBA’s top ten clutch points scored. He even knocked down not one but two buzzer beaters against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, two of the top teams in the East. Who can forget the four overtime game against the Chicago Bulls where Trae went off for 49 points and 16 assists? That was the most points scored by a rookie this year! Young joined Steph Curry, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, and Jason Kidd as the only rookies with a 35 point and 10 assists game within the last twenty five years. Games like those are why analysts started putting Trae Young in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
Dončić has already played professionally in Europe for years. He came in with a major advantage over Trae. Young is a true rookie, having come from the University of Oklahoma. Trae showed his poise by not letting the critics get to him. He remained calm and took off in the second half of the season. All the chatter about Luka stopped in the second half. It was all about Ice Trae. Young was almost unguardable. He could launch it from way down town, or he could drive right by defenders and make the acrobatic layup or use his deadly floater. Young makes everyone around him better and shows up in the late moments. He has proven that he will have a better career than Luka and should be chosen as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.
“Trae Young Stats, Splits.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/nba/player/splits/_/id/4277905/trae-young.
“Luka Doncic Stats, Splits.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/nba/player/splits/_/id/3945274/luka-doncic.
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Jared Schmehl | @SchmehlJared Twitter | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG
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