Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young’s emergence into the league was just as theatrical as his rollercoaster rookie season itself. He was picked fifth overall in the 2018 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, but they ended up trading his draft rights to the Hawks in exchange for Luka Doncic and a future first-round pick.
Now, a couple months into the season, fans and media alike have reexamined this Doncic-Young swap. Doncic appears to be the front-runner for the rookie of the year award, while Young has battled inconsistency.
Before the NBA, Young shined in the NCAA as the point guard for the University of Oklahoma. His unlimited range and quick release drew comparisons to current NBA superstar Steph Curry.
Doncic dominated in the Euroleague, winning the EuroLeague MVP and the EuroLeague Final Four MVP the year he declared for the NBA Draft. The 19-year old Doncic and 20-year old Young were two of the more polarizing athletes that entered the draft.
Doncic’s campaign for rookie-of-the-year is captained by him leading all rookies in scoring and being a top-three rookie in assists and rebounds. Doncic also ranks third in efficiency and in steals, as well as fifth in three-point percentage.
However, his stats really do not tell the whole story. His poise and leadership is on display every game, where he maneuvers like a veteran, encourages his teammates and has taken over in clutch situations.
Young’s rookie season has exhibited glimpses of greatness, but those moments have been overshadowed at times by his reckless ball-handling. Young leads all rookies and assists and is top five in scoring and was honored as the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for Oct. and Nov.
Young joins the likes of superstars such as Magic Johnson, John Wall, Allen Iverson, Chris Paul and Ben Simmons as being a 20-year rookie to average at least 15 points, 7 points and 2 assists a game. Unfortunately, these impressive numbers are undermined by his struggle of really catching up to the speed of the NBA.
Young is one of four players averaging at least four turnovers per contest and his shooting percentage has struggled, since he is shooting 25 percent from three-point range and 78 percent at the free-throw line, two of Young’s stronger areas coming into the league. Young’s struggles could be due to the lack of weapons around him, which enables defenses to really key in on him.
His true shooting percentage sits at around 46.9, which would be one of the 10 worst marks recorded by a qualified player reaching the 15-points-per-game threshold in the three-point era.
Both Doncic and Young have intriguing futures in this league as young rookies, so it certainly is not rationale to jump to conclusions over the superior player.
They both have lots of room for improvement, so it will be exciting to watch these players compete and try to prove their worth of a top-five pick. How will fans and media look back at that Doncic-Young draft night swap years from now?