On June 21st, 2018 the Atlanta Hawks traded their number 3 pick, Luka Doncic, to the Dallas Mavericks for the number 5 pick, Trae Young, and a 2019 protected first-rounder. Although, there was quickly a bit of skepticism to be had with the Hawks decision in trading away the draft rights to the Euro League MVP, at the time the trade was considered to be fair as both sides seemingly came out with a good deal benefiting both teams. Trae Young was seen as a player with tremendous upside, being able to light up the basketball court with his sensational scoring and passing abilities which he had displayed during his tenure with the Oklahoma Sooners. Averaging 27.4 PPG and 8.7 APG, leading the country in assists and points in just his freshman year of college. But just as he was seen as a player with tremendous upside, he was also seen as a player with a tremendous downside. Trae Young’s small size, lack of defensive capabilities and bad on-court decision making were all apart of the argument that critics made against Trae Young being a great player worthy of being selected in the top 5. During the beginning of the season, Trae Young was proving his doubters to be right.
Getty Images SI.com 2018
The draft rights to Trae Young were traded draft night 2018 from the Dallas Mavericks to the Atlanta Hawks for Luka Doncic and a 2019 protected first-rounder.
At the beginning of the season, NBA fans and analysts alike were expecting Trae Young to be scoring in bunches but not doing so efficiently. This turned out to be correct as Trae Young scored about 16 PPG and had about 7 APG before the NBA All-Star break, but did so while shooting a dismal 38% field goal percentage and 25% percent from the 3-Pt line. NBA media and Twitter quickly became relentless on Young, quoting that the Dallas Mavericks had “won the trade”, that Young was a “bust” and would not have a career nearly as great as Luka Doncic’s career. While these claims were very premature, to say the least, they undoubtedly had some Trae Young and Atlanta Hawks fans alike worried. Did the Hawks lose out on a generational player in Luka Doncic? Would Trae Young ever become the franchise cornerstone that the Hawks faithful needed him to be? While these notions became worrisome, Trae Young heard the criticism and indeed responded.
After the All-Star break is usually a time where NBA rookies will hit their “rookie wall” which is where rookies will slow down. Their numbers will drop and their energy will seemingly begin to drain on both the defensive and offensive sides of the court, having less impact in games. While this is the story for most rookies throughout NBA history, this is not the case for now Rookie of the Year candidate Trae Young who not only turned the corner after the All-Star break, but began sprouting into a star. Since the All-Star break, Young has averaged 26.1 PPG and 9.0 APG while shooting 42% from the field and 41% from the 3-Pt line. His game has soared and he has shot up to number 2 in the ROTY race. While Luka Doncic’s game is seemingly slowing down, with the Mavericks only winning 1 out of their last 12 games, Trae Young’s stock is growing and he is truly proving all of his doubters wrong. Not only becoming a better volume scorer, but a more efficient one, a better passer, and a better leader for his team. Another asset that the Hawks received in the draft night trade is Dallas’ 2019 protected first-round pick that will be conveyed to the Atlanta Hawks if the pick lands anywhere outside of the top 5. This could turn out to be a real steal depending on who the Hawks would draft if the pick is conveyed in this year’s draft. It would just be more young firepower added to the Atlanta Hawks already strong young core.
So even though Doncic and Young will be compared to each other for their entire careers and everyone will question whether or not one team or the other came out with the upper hand in the 2018 NBA Draft night trade, both rookies are looking like great players. While one player may have a better career than the other, the only way that anyone will truly be able to tell which team had the more advantageous trade will be to let time play out and see which scenario is more favorable for the rookie’s success. Trae Young or Luka Doncic? The Atlanta Hawks or the Dallas Mavericks? The real winner is us as the fans who get to watch these two great players play the game we all love for the next decade. We get to watch them grow, learn, fail and succeed throughout their journeys in the league and hope that they become Hall of Famers and all-time greats. While solidifying their legacies in the minds of fans and the courts of the cities that they call home, Atlanta and Dallas.