Trae Young Leaves Impression During Comeback Victory

Bart Young/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

With a commanding 23-point, 8-assist performance, Trae Young propelled the Hawks to a huge comeback win in a game they had trailed the Indiana Pacers by 27 points Wednesday.

It is OK to get excited.

To be sure, one can dismiss the performance with the usual line chorus of "It's only Summer League." On the other hand, Young is still just 19 years old playing in Las Vegas surrounded by players who are typically a few years older than he is. He is only going to get wiser and stronger, and if Wednesday's game is any indication of how he can take control of a game, whoo boy, Hawks fans are in for a treat.

As the Hawks struggled in the first half of yesterday's game with the Pacers, Young showed signs that he had gotten more comfortable than he was this time last week.

Midway through the first quarter, he drove the lane, made a U-turn under the basket, and fired out a pass for a Jock Landale three – a play made most recognizable by his idol, Steve Nash. Late in the half, he saved a ball from going out of bounds and passed it down around a defender and up into the hands of Antonius Cleveland by caroming it forcefully into the hardwood. 

But the Hawks, Young included, committed 15 turnovers in the first half and their transition defense didn't bail them out with any favors. The Pacers took a 27-point lead early in the third quarter. 

The Hawks chipped away at the lead over the rest of the quarter, thanks to Tyler Dorsey's threes, Young's ability to get to the free throw line, and the Hawks' improved rim protection.

But the game remained in doubt until Trae took over in the final quarter with his passing. 

  • With 4:30 left, Young crossed his defender left, then right – then left and right again – before darting to the rim and dropping off a pass behind the help defense to Alpha Kaba for a layup.
  • After a made Pacers basket, Young brought the the ball up slowly as if the Hawks would settle into a half-court set. But with his head up, he spotted an opening for Zach Smith at the rim and dropped in a 70-foot pass over the defense from the opposite three-point line. 
  • With three minutes remaining, Omari Spellman attacked a closeout with one dribble and sent a pass out to Young, who was open at the three-point line. Young saw two defenders lurching in to close out and, in one motion, he caught the pass and redirected it to Cleveland under the rim for a layup. 
  • With two minutes left, Young crossed a defender 30 feet from the hoop and drove to the rim. After the help defense arrived, Young fired a baseline pass to set up Dorsey's fifth three of the game.
  • With 90 seconds left, Young drove right around a double screen and the Pacers tried to trap him. Smith rolled hard to the rim and Young hit him with a pass in stride for a dunk.

All told, Young racked up five assists in fewer than three minutes of action. 

The Pacers kept fighting back, and Young sealed the win with a streaking layup against pressure and a floater over some physical defense in the final minute.

Maybe it's only Summer League. But the Hawks didn't have a passer like Trae Young last summer. Or the summer before that, or the one or two or three summers before that one. Young draws a gaggle of attention with his ability to make 25- and 30-foot jump shots, and he maneuvers around it with a full repertoire of crossovers, hesitation dribbles and changes of speed. When the help defense arrives, Young can and will get the ball to his open teammates.

 So maybe it's only Summer League. But if that's the case, be ready with a different counter in October and November when it isn't just Summer League any more. 

Trae Young can play basketball, folks.