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Opinion

Trae Young was not snubbed

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28th February, 2021
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From starter to snubbed, people are beginning to figure out Trae Young and they do not like what they see.

The question of what happened in the span of one season with no significant injury factor or even a dip in his game lies within the truth of basketball. What makes a good teammate?

The answer cannot be articulated within a group of words but I’ll give it my best shot. Just this very week, former NBA role players Matt Barnes and Steve Jackson sat down to talk with ‘Iso’ Joe Johnson via FaceTime on their new and highly underrated HBO series All The Smoke.

When the conversation moved onto Johnson’s Phoenix Suns days, Johnson immediately and instinctively praised former All Star teammate Steve Nash, claiming he “could have averaged 25 and ten, but he chose to average 14 points and 13 assists”. Instead Nash was the type of player that “made sure we ate”.

That’s over 15 years since they shared the same locker room, for what was a relatively short stretch of three and a half seasons and still Johnson was smiling from end to end when talking about him.

Do you think players on the Hawks would say the same about Trae Young? The only story we have to go by is the leaked film session debacle between Young and talented forward John Collins earlier this year – the one where Collins expressed his frustration with how Young runs the offence and the lack of ball movement. Not entirely an outrageous point of view…

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Yet, the only thing we know from how that argument concluded was that Young made it clear to the entire team afterwards, that he disagreed with Collins’ protest. I guess Young got his way because since then, nothing’s changed. If this was a mobster movie, we would have found Collins face down in the dirt two weeks later as everyone ignored his apparent absence.

But because Atlanta has not seen a star since the human highlight film, the Hawks have given over complete control to Young and his demands. Time always tells that the new face was not as good as they first thought and secondly, the power given over was never deserved.

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In Young’s circumstance, these include the complete control of the offence, the right to complain about his level of help without anyone blinking an eye, and even the referees treat him like he’s Michael Jordan in the middle of 1997.

I want to make it clear that I am not knocking Young because he feels he needs to put up all the points and assists for his team to have a chance. Some of the greatest superstars ever had that ‘put the ball in my hands if we want to win’ mentality, especially early in their careers.

Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan come to mind. But while this was clearly characteristic of their playing style, it was still a weakness.

That’s why their games did not go to the next level until they ran into in zen master Phil Jackson. Just like Coach Carter and young stud Timo Cruz, Jackson provided an offensive system that saw more touches go to teammates.

This triangle system was in complete contrast to the screen and iso play that dominated Jordan’s years from ’84 to ’89 and glimpses of Young’s first three years.

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Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls

(Image: Flickr/Jason H Smith CC-BY-2.0)

But standing at barely six feet tall and looking like a hungry fifth grader on the court, Young does not possess the athletic upside to make this mistake of playing style.

But surely he does need to be super athletic in a league dominated by three-point shooting? Look at Stephen Curry. Nothing is more laughable than this comparison so let’s destroy it.

Casuals say this because of his shooting even though Young, as a volume shooter, is shooting a career high 37 per cent from deep, while Curry has never shot less than 42 per cent. Curry is also six foot three, which is a massive difference when defending point guards. Curry does not stack the stat sheet for any other purpose than to win a game.

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Young however is fifth in usage rate although many of his games are blow-out losses. This is where he gets the majority of his points. Curry has only been in the top five for turnovers once in his 12-year career. Young was third his rookie year, second in the next and first now. See I’m not biased, I showed Young’s improvement.

Curry is the winning teammate I spoke about earlier. But Trae Young is the player that leads the Hawks to a 29-53 in his rookie season and then when making the jump the following year, somehow goes even worse with 20-47.

Trae Young is the type of player that will retire with 25,000 points and never even taste a conference finals. Trae Young is more like Steph Marbury: an overly hyped guard with epic highlight reels, believed at the beginning to be a game-changing talent, but it is quickly realised that he was never that good in the first place.

Time will tell that I’m right.