Trae Young: The Sooner is an All-Star

Dominique Wilkins speaks to Trae Young before the Atlanta Hawks game versus the Phoenix Suns. Photo by Matt Siciliano- Salazar | The Signal

You may remember Trae Young from his days in college where he was the star player of the University of Oklahoma. You may also remember him posting 10 points and 10 assists in Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game, where he hit a half court shot at the buzzer to end the first half.

As a Sooner, Young led the nation with both 27 points and eight assists per game, proving just how dynamic of a scorer and passer he was. In his lone college basketball season, the Stephen Curry comparisons ultimately sealed his fate as a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. 

Young gave dazzling performances, and you knew whenever he was in the game, his team had a chance to win. Although he lost in the national tournament against Rhode Island, he filled the stat sheet with 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Entering the 2018 NBA Draft was a no-brainer for Young.

In his rookie year, Young averaged 19 points and eight assists. He made a late-season push that year to challenge Luka Doncic for Rookie of the Year with his scoring outbursts. But Young’s elusive pursuit of the honor came up short, with Luka Doncic taking home the hardware.

The transition from year one to year two has been monumental for Young: He entered All-Starr Weekend third in scoring (29.7 points per game) and second in assists (9.2 per game), demonstrating just how masterful he is with the ball. Even his opponents have raved about how good he is. 

“Every time we play against him, he dominates the game,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said.

Young is not the prototypical point guard with super athleticism, and his 6-foot, 1-inch frame is not exactly eye-opening. But his ability to handle the ball is second to none.

Effortlessly at times, he embarrasses defenders with crossovers. When he does not, he makes a beautiful pass to set up teammates for open looks.

Young continues to be a match-up nightmare for defenders as they are starting to have no answers for the young star. Former NBA MVP and eight-time All-Star James Harden praised the second-year Young after the Houston Rockets’ 122-115 win against the Hawks on Jan. 8.

“He continues to show he can be effective in this league and play at a high level,” Harden said. 

To not only get recognition from teammates and coaches, but well-respected players of the stature of Harden speaks volumes to how far Young has come in such a short time.

In year two, Young has also done a better job at getting to the free-throw line, especially on three-point attempts, often frustrating head coaches. Just a few weeks ago, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown picked up a technical foul after Young drew a foul on a three-point attempt during an intense period of play.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted Young’s ability to draw fouls as well.

“Our guys did a really good job of keeping their hands back and making sure they didn’t foul him on any of those three-pointers,” Stevens said following their Feb. 3 game in Atlanta.

Already, Young has proven himself to be the leader of the Hawks. Despite his tender 21 years, he regularly acknowledges that he can improve, repeatedly saying, “I have to play better.” Young takes ownership of team losses, striving to play better next time out on the floor — not many young players or even many All-Star starters have this mindset.

Young reminds you of a mix of the modern and also the past NBA. His playmaking ability is similar to that of Steve Nash, a basketball legend. The no-look dimes and the effortless flow of the offense all remind you of Nash in his prime. 

The long-range shooting from 30-plus feet and the ability to shoot off the dribble is reminiscent of Steph Curry. Those dazzling threes that halted runs or started an avalanche of points disposed of opponents within minutes. With consistency and more efficiency, Young can also be in the conversation of deadly, quick striking ability giving his opponents headaches and no answers defensively. 

The talent around the All-Star is still in question, but his devotion and continuing to strive at getting better have shown.

“He’s just getting more consistent,” All-Star Ben Simmons said.

The recognition for the young star is apparent as more opponents are recognizing his game. Once the talent is up to par, Young will flourish and show the NBA what he is really made of.

“He gets that look in his eye and he gets to be almost unstoppable,” Hawks forward John Collins said. 

Having a teammate with a fire in their eyes motivates you on the court. Not many athletes possess this when playing. For the select few that do have it, nothing can stop them.

Remember Michael Jordan’s games — opponents talked about “that look in his eyes” and said there is nothing they could do to stop him. Young strikes a similar fear into his opponents. If he can have that look consistently, look out!

Young is also a pillar of his community. Not only does he contribute to the community in Atlanta but also in Oklahoma. He not only plays well on the court but also helps his community in a multitude of ways.

“Giving back to this community is extremely important to me,” Young said. 

In 2018, he gave away 500 backpacks as part of a back-to-school community event held in the city of Atlanta. Last month, he canceled $1 million in medical debt for Atlanta’s residents.

During the summers, you can find Young playing in Pro-Ams in his community alongside Collins. This past summer, the two linked up at Atlanta Elite Basketball League for a weekend and left the crowd in awe.

For fans of Young in less fortunate neighborhoods, seeing him is a dream come true. He is a hero to them, and his game is being emulated, as young hoopers are looking to perfect his three-point shots from near half-court.

Back in his days at Oklahoma, Young dazzled the college basketball world with his shooting and passing ability. So-called-experts had their doubts about him. But after being voted in as a starter for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, Young is on top of the world and proving those same “experts” wrong. 

Moving forward, Young is in store for much more greatness and a long career. With the humility he possesses, the willingness to get his teammates involved and the deep range shooting prowess, a few key players are separating him from an NBA Finals in the future.