Hawks guard Trae Young has arrived and he completely crushed the ‘Trae Young stats’ narrative. You know the one where a player just puts up empty stats that don’t amount to anything. Well not anymore. He has gladly accepted the role of the villain and he executed it to perfection. So is this a story about Trae Young’s stats or is it a story of an All-Star that dominated one of the best defences in the league? Find out below.
Trae Young stats
Eight long years have New York Knicks fans waited for a playoff game. When Immanuel Quickley scored a three from way beyond the arc at the end of the 2nd quarter it seemed like all frustrations were worth it. Even though that three cut the lead back only to 1 (44-45), Madison Square Garden went into delirium. It was an atmosphere similar to the ones we see in Europe. You know when fans pick a villain and then barrage him with insults. In this series, it was Trae Young.
But Trae remained cool and he remained Ice Trae as they call him. He played like he did not care about it being his playoff debut, in a historic arena, in front of an army of fans who barraged him with insults. 10 seconds before the game ended, with the score being 105-105 he drove to the paint and hit a floater leaving the Knicks with only 0.9 seconds on the clock. Well aware that he sealed the game, he enjoyed calming down the crowd. Even though it was only game 1 of what ended up being a 5 game series, it was a teaser that this story won’t be a Trae Young stats story.
The biggest names in NBA league history always deliver in the biggest of games and on the biggest of stages. It is what games are known for. Well, Trae has the Shush game. Trae Young was destined for the biggest of stages and he was destined to be called a villain.
Embracing the villain
His game is not particularly popular among fans despite him being one of the most creative players and passers in the league. You always have the ‘bad defender’, ‘stat hunter’, turnovers and the awkward haircut.
Most NBA players would try to play it down and try to be liked by everybody. We are in that age of men, where we need to be liked by everybody. Trae? Not so much.
He accepted the villain role with both hands and he backed it up on the court. 29 points per game in five games against the Knicks, a team that plays hard defence, one of the best defences in the league (4th best). Three of those games were played in MSG, one of the most difficult places to play when it is roaring as it was. He was by far the best player in the series. He wasn’t Trae Young stats hunter, he was Trae Young the best player.
Getting deserved credit
There were a lot of suspicions if he could keep up his playstyle in the postseason. Players like him usually don’t fare well in the postseason. That is why the shush was so significant. It was not a shush to the fans, the players or the media. It was a shush to all who doubted him in his career. Many questioned the sanity of Travis Schlenk when he traded Doncic for Young. His first NBA Summer League shot was an airball.
When he finally got some respect with the All-Star nod in 2020, many questioned the decision with Atlanta only winning 20 games. This year he was not even mentioned as a possibility for the All-Star. He is still not shown a great deal of respect despite leading the injury-ridden Hawks to the 5th seed with averages of 25 points per game and 9 assists per game. There should be no doubt about his postseason prowess anymore. Young dominated the series against New York, while All-Star Julius Randle looked like he dropped off of Mars.
What was especially striking was the inability of the Knicks to stop Young in any way. They rotated several players on him. They threw different schemes at him. He torched Barrett, Bullock, Rose. He torched Randle and Noel on the switch. He successfully played against drop defence as well as blitz. Iso plays, threes, midrange, floaters.
He controlled the tempo well and he facilitated for his teammates. Once he sealed the deal with another deep three pointer, he took a bow. Now it’s time that we all take a bow for Trae because this was never a ‘Trae Young stats’ story, this was always the ‘Trae Young is a great player’ story.