Oklahoma point guard Trae Young is the most polarizing player in the 2018 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, his situation won’t be ideal to start at the next level.
After the Dallas Mavericks drafted Young, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for rising European star Luka Doncic. Not only will Young have to produce like a star at the NBA level –he’ll enter the NBA already in another player’s shadow.
Young apparently worked out well in Atlanta, but his new roster doesn’t provide an ideal fit. The Hawks only have one surefire NBA starter on the roster: former Baylor small forward Taurean Prince. Otherwise, Young’s early seasons might look very similar to how he did by the end of his Oklahoma career.
The Hawks ranked middle of the pack in 3-point shooting and No. 26 in offensive efficiency. It doesn’t help that the best offensive player, point guard Dennis Schroeder, is almost certainly out the door since he plays the same position. Atlanta is in the early stages of rebuilding almost completely from scratch, and that will make Young’s task far more challenging.
Compare that to the situation Doncic is walking into in Dallas. The Mavericks have an incredible veteran presence with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki still on the roster. Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and forward Harrison Barnes are strong complementary pieces for Doncic to work with.
Granted, Young has incredible potential. He was the first player in college basketball history to lead the nation in points and assists per game. Before Big 12 defenses started forcing his teammates to beat them, Young shot more than 40 percent of his 3-pointers on ridiculous amounts of attempts.
Atlanta views Young as a future superstar. Those rumors already started leaking before the draft even started. In fact, the Hawks likely passed on better offers for Doncic so they could still remain high enough to take Young. Undoubtedly, Atlanta sees him as a franchise player.
The obvious comparisons have been made to Stephen Curry. When comparing numbers, it’s not crazy. Curry averaged 28.6 points and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from 3 as a 21-year-old junior at Davidson. Young hit 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game on 42.2 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3. The former did it against Southern Conference competition too, whereas Young played in the elite Big 12. And arguably, the Big 12 never was stronger top to bottom than last season.
Of course, improvement is not guaranteed. Curry built his body and game to a level that arguably no point guard in NBA history has ever reached. The two-time league MVP also built himself into an elite playmaker both on and off the ball.
At 6-foot-2 and a scrawny 178 pounds, Young has to build his body significantly. Against NBA competition, Young has to prove that his early season success at Oklahoma wasn’t a fluke. Otherwise, the Curry comparisons will quickly be replaced with those of Jimmer Fredette and Adam Morrison.
Young can be an All-Star caliber player in the NBA. In fact, the Atlanta Hawks are betting on it.
Of course, Young will have to do that while directly in the shadow of Doncic in the eyes of Hawks fans. If Young reaches his full potential, there’s no question, he’ll have earned it.