Being a franchise player is all about eventually leading your team to a championship. Trae Young was only 19 years old when the Atlanta Hawks placed this burden on his shoulders. Young acquired in a trade that featured Luka Doncic (forever linking the two’s careers) has been an offensive dynamo for the Hawks these passed 3 seasons with the highlights being an All Star appearance in 2020 and a playoff push this current season but it’s worth asking whether or not Trae Young is capable of pulling off this immense task.
Trae Young An Inefficient Volume Scorer
Trae Young is a throw back volume shooter. Young shoots sub 45% from the field but plays with the belief that his teams best chance at winning is if he can find his rhythm and shoot them to victory, it’s reminiscent of AI in Philly in the early 2000’s. It must be noted however that this style of basketball is very wishy washy when it comes to team results. On one side is Kobe Bryant who led his team to back to back championships being a volume scorer while on the other side are good stats bad team guys like Bradley Beal or Young himself. It’s already worrying that Trae Young is one of the leading faces of the NBA’s current “dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot….” wave but it’s even more concerning when you realize Young is a small guard and this style of basketball is hardest on them as they don’t have the necessary body(well unless you’re AI) to carry the weight of an entire offense.
Accepting Trae Young for who he is as a scorer has to be the first correction the Atlanta Hawks make if they are to build an actual championship team around him. In the last 20 years they have only been 3 teams who won a championship whose best player in the finals was an undoubtedly a guard;
2006 – Miami Heat = Dwyane Wade.
2009/2010 – Los Angeles Lakers = Kobe Bryant.
2015 – Golden State Warriors = Steph Curry.
In the 2006 Finals D-Wade was going to the charity stripe about 16 times a game. Kobe was the complete two way player at this point and made first team all defense in both these championship seasons. Curry started to redefine basketball with his all time elite 3 point shooting in 2015. Of these 3 options it’s worth wondering which one can be an actual path for Trae Young. The Kobe route is simply impossible because Trae Young will never be that much of an elite defender. The Curry route? He is a very good shooter with great range but isn’t consistent enough as a 3 point maker to bring the same floor stretching dimensions that Curry brings. The only option is the D-Wade route which actually suits his game quite well;
Trae Young gets to the charity stripe at a shade below Joel Embiid who is a 7 footer. Asking Trae Young to get to the line 15+ times over a 7 game series is very much possible but to fully mirror the 2006 Heat one of the Hawks has to become a more guaranteed scoring threat. In 06 Shaq shot 60% from the field for an easy 20 PPG as D-Wade had a career year averaging 27 PPG on 49.5% shooting. One of the current Hawks has to step up and become a reliable 20 PPG on respectable splits to allow Young room to have bad shooting nights and concentrate on the other sides of his game;
The Strengths Of Trae Young
Trae Young thrives in this team as the floor stretcher and lead playmaker. Allowing him to focus on these two traits as someone else picks up the lion share of the scoring burden will allow this Hawks team to make the leap. Another reliable scoring option will also help Young not go into hero-ball mode when a game seems to be escaping the Hawks. Defensively he’ll never be anything higher than average but he is still enough of an offensive threat that you can live with that in the right system.
So can you win a championship with Trae Young as your best player? In my opinion yes but it’s a narrow road that requires another elite scoring option and a willingness from Trae Young to take a step back as a scorer and focus in as a playmaker and off ball threat. In my opinion if you put Young on that 2006 Miami Heat team you lose D-Wade’s two way ability but gain a better playmaker and floor spacer to help smooth out the offense.
The Atlanta Hawks had Luka Doncic in their hands and traded him for someone they felt better suited the city and their target market. The Hawks front office are happy with Trae Young’s impact off the court as he is an easily relatable and thus marketable star player with an aesthetically appealing finesse game. It was the right marketing/brand choice for a team in “that” city to trade for him but it will all be useless if they don’t make the necessary on court moves to see their Franchise Player thrive and win.