In a recent social media post, Trae Young showcased his ongoing workouts with perennial superstar Stephen Curry. While this is not their first training session together, the significance cannot be ignored. Despite drawing comparisons due to each of their three-point shooting prowesses, Young and Curry have distinct playing styles. Young excels as a decision-maker with the ball in his hands, whereas Curry is renowned as possibly the league’s greatest scoring threat. While Young’s first five seasons were record-breaking, there’s much he can learn from the four-time NBA champion.
“To be the best, you must LEARN from the best.”— Awake (panthers divison winners) (@ToomuchHim) August 19, 2023
Trae Young’s caption on his new TikTok in which he’s working out with Steph Curry. pic.twitter.com/U748o2yk1H
Trae Young’s prowess as a primary ball handler is undeniable. Among starting on-ball guards, his potential assists per 100 possessions ranked in the 100th percentile, as did his playmaking talent. Young has led the NBA in total assists in back to back seasons. Combine this with finishing top-10 in scoring, and you have a bonafide superstar player.
Curry’s reputation as a player needs no introduction, but let’s focus on his 2023 season. He logged 11.4 three-point attempts per game and Young put up his fair share as well, at 6.3 attempts per game. However, the crucial distinction lies in the types of shots they take. Curry’s exceptional off-ball movement forces defenders to chase him across the court and navigate screens, as indicated by his movement distance ranking in the 63rd percentile among starting guards. On the other hand, Young’s movement distance ranks below 1st percentile. Moreover, Young’s on-ball percentage ranks in the 96th percentile compared to Curry’s 57th percentile. Asking Trae Young to improve as an off-ball player may seem nit-picky, as he is a killer with the ball in his hands, but with the addition of Dejounte Murray, it also may be necessary.
Curry’s dominance extends to his movement attack rate, a metric that highlights how a player scores in off-screen actions or cuts to the rim. Curry ranks in the 100th percentile, while Young is in the 21st percentile. To harness this aspect of Curry’s game, Young could incorporate more off-ball movement to create catch-and-shoot opportunities. In catch-and-shoot three-point shot making, Curry’s efficiency ranks in the 79th percentile compared to Young’s 42nd percentile.
It’s important to acknowledge that comparing Young’s off-ball game to Curry’s might seem unfair, given Curry’s status as a benchmark. However, the point of this piece is to highlight the potential of Trae Young to become an all-time great. Their offensive impacts were very comparable this season. Among starting point guards, Young’s offensive impact (O-LEBRON) ranked in the 94th percentile, just slightly below Curry’s 96th percentile. There are only small improvements left for Young to make offensively.
If Young’s offseason focus is improving his off-ball movement, it could have positive outcomes for both him and his teammate Dejounte Murray. Always the primary ball handler for his team, Murray’s own improvement without the ball this season shows the potential for growth in this aspect. While expecting Young or Murray to match Curry’s level of off-ball gravity is unrealistic, improvements are feasible. In a system that emphasizes three-point shooting, refining their off-ball skills could elevate both of their individual ceilings and the Hawks’ overall potential.
(All data via BBall Index)