6 Reasons Why Trae Young Deserves To Be An All-Star
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Story by K.L. Chouinard
Follow K.L. on Twitter at @klchouinard
1) Trae Young is a star.
Let's start with a premise embedded in the name itself. The event is the All-Star Game, the game with all of the stars. Trae Young is a no-doubt star, a player who moves the needle. He is (and has been for quite some time) a player who people want to watch.
As he showed on this play, Trae is always a threat to make a rare play, something unexpected and breathtaking at the same time. The person who spots the Shammgod and the hesitation dribble appreciates it. Little kids appreciate it. Great-grandmas appreciate it. Trae is a treat for all ages and audiences.
Trae is a star. His highlights are a viral content machine. He should be in a game with all of his fellow A-list NBA players.
On the other hand, even if we set star-quality aside, Trae should still rank as a lock as one of the 12 best players in the Eastern Conference.
2) Trae leads the Eastern Conference in assists.
Through games played Jan. 16, Trae leads the Eastern Conference with 8.5 assists per game and he ranks fourth overall for the whole league.
If the theoretical argument against Trae's All-Star appearance goes something like, "the Hawks don't have a ton of wins therefore Trae doesn't do enough to make his team better", the folks making that case have either missed the point or not watched the Hawks play.
Trae constantly draws extra attention and extra defenders, and as a result, his teammates are more open and in a better situation to score when he gives them the ball.
3) The Hawks have been much more efficient with Trae on the court.
When one compares the Hawks' offense with and without Trae on the court, the Hawks have been 17.4 points per 100 possessions better with Trae in the game.
Whenever he has the ball in his hands, Trae is a threat to drive, shoot, pass or draw free throws. Defenses cannot take away all of those options. They have to pick and choose.
At that point, it's Trae's call to make as far as where the ball should go and he usually makes the right call.
4) Trae ranks second in the East in points.
Trae has averaged 29.2 points per game this season. He trails the only player in front of him in the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo, by less than a point per game (30.1). Antetokounmpo is the reigning MVP.
When you've outscored everyone in your conference but the reigning MVP, you deserve to be in the All-Star Game.
4b) Trae is in select company.
If Trae keeps up the pace, he'll be the second player in NBA history to average 29 points and 8 assists per game in his second season. 12-time All-Star Oscar Robertson was the first.
5) Stretching defenses to the limit.
In the 2010-11 season, Kyle Lowry led the NBA in shots made from 28+ feet. Lowry made six shots from that distance that season (data from basketballreference.com).
Last season, Steph Curry made 62 shots from 28+ feet, the greatest number since the NBA began tracking shot distances in 2000-01. (Trae finished second behind Curry).
At the halfway point of this season, Trae has made 41 shots from 28 feet and beyond. These shots have value. They increase the amount of distance that defenses have to cover. They make teams chase over screens instead of ducking under them. And, of course, they count for three points instead of two.
Trae is not just knocking down a high volume of these shots. He is also converting them at an unthinkable 40.2 percent clip.
The touch, coordination and feel for the game that it takes to make these kinds of shots should not be underestimated. If it was in any way an easy thing to do, other NBA players would have done it.
6) Trae has honed his craft.
The long shots aren't the end of the story. Trae's shotmaking across all levels has gotten better. His floater, already really good last season, has improved. His finishing around the rim is up.
Perhaps most noticeably, his three-point shotmaking out of the pick and roll has improved. Like the ultra-long threes, these shots are difficult. Defenders lurk in multiple spots. Balance is precarious because you're moving in a direction that isn't toward the basket. Trae makes these shots anyway and with enough precision that defenses put themselves in compromising positions with trapping and blitzing schemes because they need to commit two defenders to him.
"I worked a lot on that this summer and even through the year, just coming off the screen and being ready to shoot off the screen," Young said. "I didn't do a lot of that last year (when) it was more coming off screens and hitting the pop guy or shooting floaters."
"For me, now there are some teams that sit their big man way back in the paint. If our big man hits the guy guarding me, then I'm able to get off the pick and I have a wide-open three if I work on it. And I did a lot of that this summer."
Trae's summer workout schedule was not one for the faint of heart.
"In the summer I got back to my three-a-days. I get a workout early in the morning on the court. It will be a hard workout. It will be a lot of ballhandling and shots off the pick-and-roll. Then I get a lift in around 2:00 or 2:30. Then I'll go eat and rest up. And then at nighttime, I'll find a gym around 7:30 or 8:00 and then just get shots up. That's not necessarily a hard (workout), it's just more touch and coming out and getting my deep shots up."
That's really the key for Trae. His touch is better than last year, and describing his touch as 'better' is an understatement. He's playing basketball in a way that is virtually unprecedented. His ball skills are phenomenal. His shooting range goes as deep as anyone in NBA history.
In a way, to finish where we started, being a prodigy and a star and a social media phenom works against Trae. The folks who see Trae's highlights and look at the Hawks record without watching actual Hawks games assume that those highlights are coming as a product of a hit-or-miss style of play.
That's not what Trae is doing. He is changing the way basketball is being played, he has put the work in to get to a skill level that allows for that style of play and he deserves to be in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
He deserves it, and the fans who watch the game deserve to see him, too.
Don't forget to vote for Trae Young HERE. You have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, January 20!