Trae Young has turned on the afterburners for the Atlanta Hawks and reignited a real Rookie of the Year conversation. A conversation that seemed wrapped by Luka Doncic in December. And with Trae’s performance at the start of the season, you may have been right.
The talk is heating up now, merely for the fact that Trae may lead this Atlanta Hawks team to 30 wins, a mark that seemed impossible with the roster that was intending to tank the season away. Trae hasn’t allowed that. That is why the question should be asked, is Trae Young going to win Rookie of the Year?
Trae Young has taken over the city of Atlanta. This Hawks team trajectory pointed vertically as soon as Young took off, and that is not a coincidence. Sure, the Hawks are still a lottery team, but the way Trae has played since the All-Star break has elevated this team to another level. The Hawks hit a ten-game losing skid in November, but since that point, the Hawks have been 24-32. If the losing streak hadn’t occurred, this team could be pushing for a playoff spot this season. That is Trae’s ability’s leading this team to the success they have had. The improvement Trae has shown this season has changed the goals in Atlanta. Instead of having to endure a long rebuild, the Hawks can be back in the playoffs in two seasons. That is a far cry from where we all assumed the Hawks would be.
The biggest knock against Trae Young’s Rookie of the Year campaign come in November and December. While Luka was stealing the hearts of every NBA analyst, Trae was getting off to a horrific start. His first full month, November was marred with poor shooting and worst shooting. In November, Trae shooting from the floor was around 35 percent and his three-point shooting was abysmal, at 19 percent. In December, his shooting numbers began to improve. His overall shooting improved to 43 percent and from three, he climbed up to 34 percent. In the four months since then, Trae’s shooting percentage hasn’t dipped below 40 percent even when his three-point shooting percentage has fluctuated.
Even when Trae has had shooting woes, his assist numbers have stayed consistently high. Since November, Trae’s assist average has not dipped below 7 a game. So even when the rookie is having an off night shooting the ball, he’s still contributing a great deal to the game through his passing and creativity. There has not been a game where Trae has stayed completely absent from the game. The same can not be said for Luka, who is a volume shooter at 16 shots a game, compared to Trae who is shooting around 14 times a game.
The Hawks have not asked as much from Trae Young as Dallas has of Luka Doncic. The Mavericks were pushing for a playoff spot after getting off to a hot start, but have since gone into tank mode. And that’s not Luka’s fault that Dallas gutted the team, but Luka is allowed to do a lot more than Trae is with Atlanta. On the Hawks, Trae has John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and Vince Carter to step up when he is having an off night.
Since November, Trae has not gone over 30 percent when it comes to his usage rate, other than March, but the Hawks are letting Trae play more minutes and run more offense through him. Since December, Luka has been at or above 30 percent for his usage rate with the Dallas Mavericks. And he’s still climbing, hitting 35 percent for the month of March. If Trae was given the kind of exposure Dallas gives for Luka, it’s arguable that Trae’s scoring and assists numbers would match or exceed whatever Luka is doing in Dallas. Trae is doing more, or the same amount as Luka on less use for the Hawks, who happened to be surging since Trae’s usage has gone up.
Now, let’s talk about some of the company Trae Young has joined since coming to the NBA. After scoring 40 points and recording 10 assists, Trae joined Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only rookies to ever put up that same stat line. That’s it. Anytime a player is mentioned in the company, something is going right. That’s not all though. At the start of March, Trae scored 35 or more points in three straight games. The only rookies to ever do that are Bernard King, Allen Iverson, and Michael Jordan. These groupings are not predictions but indicators of what Trae Young has the ability to be in the NBA.
Luka Doncic has made history and joined elite groups of players, but it’s nothing like the feats Trae Young have been able to reach since the All-Star Break. Yes, Luka Doncic has been incredible all season, but the way Trae has been playing has eclipsed anything else Luka has done since the All-Star Break. The stuff Trae is doing is not just overtaking Luka, but a lot of the players in the entire league. Luka may have been more ready for the grind and physicality of the NBA, but strides Trae has made since coming into the league shows all of us what he can do in the NBA. Right now, Trae’s ceiling doesn’t seem to stop going up, but the question has to be asked about whether this is Luka’s ceiling we are seeing now? And if it is, Luka’s ceiling is very good, but Trae is matching that, maybe even overtaking him at this point.
I could be slightly biased when it comes to this conversation. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Trae Young go on his historic tear from up close. I have been loving seeing Trae shut up every doubter to the point where he has fans across the NBA landscape now. I have also had the pleasure to watch Dallas completely crater because the Hawks are tied to their lottery pick. Luka has still been putting up good numbers like he has all season, but the gap has been closed drastically. Trae has launched himself into this Rookie of the Year competition by leading the Hawks to win after win while putting up huge numbers on a regular basis. I don’t think it’s that crazy to put Trae as the Rookie of the Year after taking a look at the numbers.
If the teams’ records are a wash to the conversation then the numbers are good enough for Trae to take the title, but Luka’s numbers are good, too. If I had to guess today, Luka will most likely hold on to the award, but the fact that we are having the conversation says it all. Trae Young deserves more than consideration with the way he has played this season. Trae deserves to be the Rookie of the Year.