Trae Young was a busy man this past weekend. The point guard for the Atlanta Hawks was in Chicago for NBA All-Star Weekend after being voted into the All-Star game as a starter in only his second year in the league. In addition to the actual game on Sunday, Young also competed in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night and the three-point contest on Saturday.
The Rising Stars game is intended to feature the future stars of the NBA, with the best first and second year players in the league divided into Team USA and Team World.
The game is largely an exhibition filled with flashy highlights and very little defense. The game is very laid back and usually becomes an impromptu dunk contest in the final minutes.
One memorable moment involving Young occurred right before halftime, when Dallas Mavericks star Luka Donćič was dribbling the ball up the court. Young jokingly challenged him to shoot from halfcourt. Naturally, Donćič sank the half-court shot, and the preceding laughter and hug went viral on social media.
Donćič and Young have had a friendly rivalry literally since the start of their careers when the Mavericks and Hawks executed a draft-day trade of the two. They went on to finish 1-2 in Rookie of the Year voting last year, leading to a lot of debate over who is the better player, but they have been able to develop a friendship in spite of that, as was seen on Friday night.
Two days later, it was Young’s turn to sink a half-court shot right before the halftime buzzer, this time in the actual All-Star game. Young finished the game with a double-double of 10 points and 10 assists, a strong performance in one of the more competitive NBA all-star games in recent years.
Young also participated in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but struggled to find a rhythm and finished with only 15 points, leading to his elimination in the first round.
Young’s inclusion on the All-Star team has continued an ongoing debate in the NBA regarding the representation of bad teams. The Hawks’ current record is 15-41, last in the Southeast Division and well out of the playoffs.
Former players such as Charles Barkley have said that players from bad teams do not deserve to be all-stars, while others have argued that the team’s record does not necessarily reflect the skill of an individual player.
Young’s numbers this season certainly speak for themselves. He is currently third in the league with an average of 29.7 points per game and second in assists with 9.2 per game. He has become known throughout the league for remarkable feats of ballhandling, viral circus shots, and most of all, long range three-point bombs.
The Hawks have been attempting to build a competent team around him by acquiring young players like John Collins and Kevin Huerter through the draft. At their current pace, the Hawks have a good chance of getting a high draft pick, giving themselves a chance to add another weapon to the team.
While the focus has always been on developing young talent, the club has also shown a desire to become more competitive in the immediate future, recently swinging a trade with the Houston Rockets for center Clint Capela. Young is the most dynamic and exciting player the Hawks have had in a long time. He has become the face of Hawks basketball and has begun popularizing his brand with the nickname “Ice Trae.”
As the Hawks continue to rebuild, having a possible future superstar will hopefully serve to energize a fanbase that has one of the lower attendance rates in the NBA. The fact that the Hawks has a player at the All-Star game is definitely a sign of progress. The Hawks return from the break on Feb. 20 when they will face off against the Miami Heat.