The Atlanta Hawks are a fun young team that have selected a handful of intriguing pieces in the last two drafts. On Friday night, that was put on full display in the NBA Rising Stars competition as part of All-Star Weekend. Two young members of the Hawks, Trae Young and John Collins, were selected to play for underdog Team USA as teammates against Team World in something of a “tune-up” for the rest of the festivities.
Young is having an awesome first NBA season at the ripe old age of 20, averaging 17 points, over 7.5 assists and almost 3.5 rebounds per game while playing in all 58 games this season for Atlanta. Young was traded to the Hawks on draft night for the rights to fellow rookie Luka Doncic and a 2019 first round pick with ultra-light protections. While Doncic has held the spotlight for the entirety of this season and will likely win Rookie of the Year, Young has been equally exciting and polarizing at times, and he possesses a passing ability like few others in the NBA, with the potential to become a future All-Star.
Collins has been equally as good this season in his second campaign at just 21 years old. The young big man was a first round steal in 2017 for Travis Schlenk and company at No. 19 overall and he has vastly outplayed many players picked ahead of him in last season’s draft up to this point.
With his high flying acrobatics and ludicrous finishing ability around the rim, it is easy to see why Collins was selected to participate in this contest. On the season, Collins is averaging over 19 points, 9.5 (!) rebounds and two assists per game while shooting a blistering 57% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc.
Collins is already quite the player and the former Wake Forest star is set to surpass 10 win shares in his first two seasons in the NBA. It would not have surprised anyone to see Collins win the MVP of the Rising Stars game — or to see him take home some hardware from the slam dunk contest on Saturday — making him a big-ticket attraction on this particular night.
Let’s get into the action shall we?
Young got things going early on the... defensive end?
TRAE YOUNG BLOCK— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 16, 2019
TRAE YOUNG THREE pic.twitter.com/fQEtJREvSV
Then it was Collins, who (as we mentioned earlier) is set to compete in the NBA Slam Dunk contest on Saturday, slamming home an absurd driving dunk.
Shield your eyes on this next one...
viewer discretion advised.— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 16, 2019
heavily advised. pic.twitter.com/r4tBehkbca
We’re nearing the territory where it’s possible to believe Collins is somehow able to fly.
we are used to it already.— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 16, 2019
but this is something else. pic.twitter.com/3XqElAZeYS
Off the assist from his teammate no less.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, that was a 360 alley-oop in full transition.
Somewhere in the third quarter, Young almost took Josh Okogie’s soul.
Then the rookie point guard started to show off some of those swift dribble moves that he will need as he competes in the Skills Challenge on Saturday.
Trae Young showed off the handles with Uncle Drew mic'd up pic.twitter.com/j4GAC4uDlk— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 16, 2019
Young then started throwing in everything he shot.
Remember earlier when the rookie missed the cross on Okogie? Well, he made sure he didn’t miss his second chance on Ayton.
trae just threw some extra sauce on this game. pic.twitter.com/bDZZI2Ae7j— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 16, 2019
Collins sat the final quarter in preparation for his slam dunk performance and Young finished the game on the floor with the starters. In fact, Young piled up 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to put himself in the conversation for MVP.
In the end, though, it was Kyle Kuzma (and his 35 points on 27 shots) that took home the hardware to a chorus of boos in the crowd. Collins finished with 12 points (on 6 of 7 shooting) in 15 minutes.
Both Collins and Young now turn their attention to Saturday and their respective competitions that will feature up to the minute coverage in this space. Stay tuned.