In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The seventeenth (and final) edition takes a glance at rookie point guard Trae Young.
Trae Young enters his career with what appear to be elite skills on the offensive end with some warranted concerns on the other side of the floor. However elite those skills may be, navigating the NBA as a rookie point guard is no cakewalk, and while Young won’t face the vaunted Western Conference backcourts quite as often as rookies Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox did last season, it would not surprise me if Young got off to a slow start, much like those two did last season.
Young struggled to start Summer League play for the Hawks in Utah, but went on to put the skills that vaulted his draft stock as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma on display for everyone to see in Las Vegas with a few impressive stat-lines and late game moments.
There is little doubt in Young’s offensive ability and potential, with elite shooting range and court vision seemingly already in his bag of tricks as a 20-year-old. Let’s take a look at some of Young’s work on the offensive end in the Summer League to see what we might see this season from the rookie.
Young will not hesitate to take the open look from beyond the arc, with little consideration of the distance or time left on the shot clock, as displayed time and time again this Summer:
Something Young has been working on this off-season that will be essential to his development: playing off of the ball and shooting off the catch, was also on display this Summer:
Passing and Playmaking
On the defensive end of the floor, there seems to be a great deal of skepticism concerning Young’s fit on the defensive end in the modern game. He’s undersized for a point guard at 6’1, and his slight frame combined with what appears to be less than elite athleticism warrants the concerns.
Young struggled defending his position at the collegiate level as well, often being out of place and failing to get over ball screens. Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and his staff will be challenged with task of molding Young into an adequate NBA defender over the coming years with expected growing pains in the early going.
So far, it appears Young is making an effort to buff up his upper body and showed flashes of being competitive on the defensive end of the floor this Summer:
It remains to be seen exactly the capacity in which Young will be used to begin the season, some of which depends on Jeremy Lin’s health and availability throughout training camp and the preseason. If Lin is out and Young impresses in camp, he may be able to earn the starting point guard job right out of the gate. However, regardless of Lin’s health, the Hawks have the ability to get creative with their lineups if they deem Young is not ready to start an NBA game come mid-October.
Regardless of whether he starts or comes off of the bench initially, at some point he will be unleashed and thrown into the fire of facing top NBA competition. Plenty of ups and downs are to be expected with his style of play, but it will certainly be a fun ride with a special talent like Young being worked into the fold on an Atlanta team lacked consistent playmaking last season at the point guard position.
While Lin may start the season as the starting point (pending health), Young taking the reins at some point, for better or worse, doesn’t seem to be that far fetched by any stretch of the imagination. If Lin plays well, it may make sense to see what a contender thinks he’s worth at some point, and if he doesn’t play well/stay healthy, then Young could quickly assume his role as the starter. The Hawks made a big investment in Young, so at some point it will be time for the staff to see exactly what they are working with.
Young’s statistics are hard to project as it’s unclear exactly what type of playing time he will receive at this point but I would expect a relatively inefficient shooting percentage given the difficulty of a lot of the shots he has taken in the past, especially early in the season, however not quite as inefficient as the previously mentioned Fox and Ball due to his shooting talent being far superior to theirs at this stage. Young struggled mightily in the second half of the season at the University of Oklahoma (although it was mostly because he was constantly getting trapped and double-teamed) and had a couple of performances in the Summer League that he would probably like to forget about as well.
It would also be surprising to no one if Young racked up his fair share of turnovers as he adapts to a new league, new system and new teammates. This is no indictment of Young, typically success is hard to come by for rookie point guards in the NBA.
The best case scenario for Young as a rookie statistically would be probably something similar to what Damian Lillard did in his rookie campaign back in the 2012-13 season, when he put up averages of 19 points and 6.5 assists on 42.9 percent shooting from the floor and 36.8 percent from behind the arc. To be clear, I don’t really think his game resembles Lillard’s that much, Lillard’s rookie season statistics are just in the neighborhood of what a breakout rookie season from Young might look like.
With all of that being said, Young’s talent presents plenty of reason for excitement and the nights he finds his rhythm will be a sight to behold. In many ways, I expect Young’s season to embody what is expected to be another rebuilding season for a young Hawks roster. There will be ups, there will be downs, but most of all hopefully there will be plenty of improvement from Young and the rest of his teammates this season.
Stay tuned as we inch towards the return of NBA basketball in the coming weeks.