Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young wants it all. And if the way his debut season is going is any sign of the future, then the sky is the limit.
As a 20-year-old rookie starter from day one, Young went through his struggles early on this season. He hit just 19.8% of attempted three pointers during November — a far from stellar rate for someone considered a great shooter. The Hawks were losing. And to top it off, the player the Hawks traded for Young on draft night was dominating.
But Young never panicked or lost confidence in his game.
“Sticking to what’s gotten me to this point, staying close to family, that was really helpful for me getting me through everything I went through in college, just making sure I stay true to who I am,” Young says.
On draft night, Atlanta traded Slovenian Luka Doncic (third overall pick) to the Dallas Mavericks for the University of Oklahoma standout, Young (fifth overall pick) and a 2019 first round pick. The trade would forever link together Doncic and Young. Who won the trade? Well that debate will rage on for years to come.
“It’s not a bad thing” Young Says. “We are going to be linked forever basically till we both retire. He’s been having a hell of a season this year. I’m pulling for him because he is in my class, making our class look good. It’s going to be a good competition until we are both done playing.”
The debate over who would be the 2018-19 NBA rookie of the year seemed to be over by Christmas. Doncic was dominating, putting up rookie numbers the NBA hasn’t seen since Lebron James. Young and the rest of the rookie class were underwhelming. But something clicked for Young after the NBA All-Star break.
“The thing that fuels me is always wanting more” Young says. “I don’t want to ever settle. I just always want more. That’s something that has always fueled me as a kid growing up. That’s all it is. I just always want more.”
Since mid-February Young’s numbers have exploded. He’s averaging 25.1 points and 9.3 assists per game. For reference, two-time MVP and a man many consider to be the one of the greatest shooters ever, Steph Curry, averaged 26.1 points and 5.4 assists during that span. Young often gets compared to Curry because of his ball handling and shooting abilities. He calls that humbling. But at the end of the day he wants to be different.
“For me all I’m trying to do every day is find different ways for me to stand out from the rest of the pack. And what I need to do to be different.”
Young isn’t just putting up numbers, he is winning games. Young has hit game winning shots against the 76ers and the Bucks over the past two weeks. His impressive performances prompting many of his peers like the Pistons’ Blake Griffin and the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell to tweet that Young should be the Rookie of the Year.
“A lot of my idols growing up won that award” Young says. “At the end of the day I’m just trying to get better and focus on that but winning the award would definitely mean a lot to me.”
Whether he wins that prize or not, Young’s rookie year has been historic. He has 6 games where he has scored 30 points or more while dishing out 10 or more assists. Michael Jordan and Steph Curry had 5 such games during their rookie campaigns.
“Its crazy to me” Young says. “Steph, MJ, it’s kinda surreal. Whenever I get an award or something like that it just motivates me to keep pushing and keep going.”
The NBA announces the winner of the rookie of the year June 24 at the annual awards show on TNT. Has Young done enough to beat out Doncic? Time will tell. But one thing is for sure, what once was considered a lopsided trade, is no more.