Trae Young is the centerpiece of the Atlanta Hawks, both in the present and for the future. From the team’s 2018 draft-day trade to land the former Oklahoma Sooners guard, Atlanta’s organization has made its intentions clear, building around Young and intentionally surrounding him with pieces designed to be complementary to his skill set. While that singularity does not ensure that Young will always be the overwhelming focus of the team’s on-court attack on a nightly basis, he recently put together a brief performance that turned heads and showcased his full pallet of offensive traits.
This week, SB Nation is highlighting a performance, player, or accomplishment from various NBA teams, taking a moment to purposefully spotlight a specific effort. To that end, much was written about Atlanta’s close-fought loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday — including Peachtree Hoops’ own deep dive and plenty on the scuffle between LeBron James and courtside fans that resulted in ejections from State Farm Arena — but Young strung together a third quarter run that clearly stood out.
Eventually, Young needed a breather after playing 12 straight minutes, coming off the court to begin the fourth quarter, and the closing period was marked by a back-and-forth of runs between the two teams. Beginning with the 10:16 mark of the third quarter, however, the Trae Young show was on full display.
The eruption began with Young purposefully manipulating the Lakers defense and finding John Collins with a trademark lob pass for a dunk.
Want to see the perfect pass? pic.twitter.com/u8ojvuyvtk— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) February 2, 2021
Shortly after, Young drove the lane, using the rim to draw gravity and act as a buffer, before finding a cutting Cam Reddish with a well-timed pass for a layup to continue the barrage. That was followed by a simple, yet effective, lob to Clint Capela for another dunk, making life easy for Atlanta’s play finishers.
If Young’s lob (seen above) to Collins was not the most frequently discussed play of his evening, it was the behind-the-back find to Kevin Huerter, who buried a three-pointer to continue Atlanta’s run.
Finally, Young later drew the entire attention of the defense, allowing Collins to slip toward the rim virtually undeterred, and that play ended in a (very) easy basket for the fourth-year big man.
In the quarter, Young produced five assists and, well, none of them came cheaply. He engineered and created the bucket with his own gravity on each occasion and, for the night, Young finished with a season-high 16 assists.
Young was not only prolific as a passer during this stretch, however, and he left his mark as a scorer. The 22-year-old guard breezed to the rim, showcasing his straight-line speed and overall quickness on the way to two layups. In addition, Young’s well-chronicled floater game was prominently featured, connecting on two attempts in the short mid-range. He also didn’t let his oft-discussed foul-drawing ability go to waste, putting Talen Horton-Tucker in the penalty box on two occasions, including an ultra-valuable three-shot foul.
When Young found Collins for the lob at the 10:16 mark, that began an eight-minute stretch that would be difficult for any NBA player, much less a small guard, to replicate on anything approaching a consistent basis. Young accounted for 22 of Atlanta’s next 25 points, either by scoring or generating an assist, and he essentially took over every aspect of the game for the Hawks.
On a night in which Young finished with 25 points and 16 assists in a losing effort, it would be quite easy to glance past this singular run, and part of the beauty of this SB Nation series is the clear desire not to miss this kind of intricacy. It would be accurate to say that both Young and the Hawks enjoyed lofty highs and frustrating lows within the confines of a single game against the reigning champions, with costly turnovers late and an opponent well-designed to take advantage of Atlanta’s blunders. Still, it is worth noting in earnest that the Hawks have a centerpiece fully capable of this kind of complete destruction of the opposing defense.
It isn’t breaking news, even in the slightest, to suggest that Trae Young is one of the NBA’s best offensive players. While he does leave a bit to be desired on the other end of the floor, Young is a dynamic talent worthy of praise, incorporating multiple tenets of quality offense, from all-world passing vision (and execution) to long-range shooting, an important floater game and legitimately elite talent as a foul-drawing force. As such, the broad strokes — including his impressive overall statistics — are easy to recall and share, but even in a tiny sliver of a 72-game season, Young’s eight-minute tour de force against the Lakers shouldn’t go unnoticed or unremembered.
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