Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Trae Young Summer League Thoughts, Part 1





Trae Young has shown both the positives and the work that is to be done for the rookie point guard to realize his upside this season through these first two games of his young career.

If you worried about Young being unable to get his shot in a faster, stronger NBA, then you have been seeing exactly what you are concerned about. Young has struggled for any space at all in these two games and has shot poorly as a result. Both Memphis and San Antonio practically picked him up full court and Young had grind every dribble with opposition.

Watching other rookies in past summer leagues, they did not get this treatment. It is like when Reggie Bush came into the NFL and teams overplayed him and took him out of every game, it seemed, and dared others to beat them.

The scoring restriction is potentially a big deal since one of the two huge positives for Young was the ability to stretch the floor immensely with his shooting. The Hawks passed on other players with considerable skills to obtain this ability, so it is imperative that Young deliver on this or the pick immediately becomes less valuable.

Ok, that is the bad news on Young in the two games. It is significant early feedback, but there are some caveats to this.

1. Young is making good plays.

The first game against the Grizzlies, Young tried to force shots that were not there against the intentional pressure. Against the Spurs in the second game, we already saw Young adjusting and be very willing to stop shooting and make the right play. This is very significant. Young made so many plays that went unrewarded: Perfect passes to open shooters, lobs, drop offs, etc. And, while John Collins and Omari Spellman were on the floor and should be joining Young in regular season rotations, the rest of the roster, with the possible exception of Dorsey, is summer league material.

So many solid passes resulted in bricks, duffs and turnovers from his inexperienced teammates. Anybody box score watching will look at Young's six assists in two games and not pick up his effectiveness passing. Many assists have been lost in his teammates' foibles.

Additionally, Lloyd Pierce looks like he has a mandate offensively: Play super duper fast and jack some threes. Playing at such a speed is a skill that has to be worked on and developed. There is a delicate balance between playing fast and effective and playing too fast and rushing everything. The Hawks, though the first two efforts of the Pierce era, look to be rushing things offensively and that can go a ways to explain the lack of buckets.

The Grizzlies and Spurs focused on suffocating Young's scoring and dared his teammates to deliver and they could not. This approach may be the case in the regular season, but there is no way the team shoots 30% with a veteran frontcourt and better wing shooting. In short, it looks like Trae is going to make teams pay with assists if they overplay as long as he maintains this approach at the point.

Young was like a quarterback who is taking what the defense gives him but his receivers are dropping passes like crazy. The important takeaway is if Young makes the right read. Against the Grizzlies he tried to force the game and took some ill-advised shots that would be kin to throwing into double coverage. Against San Antonio, we saw Young limit himself to five 3PAs and made many, many passes to open teammates in scoring position. This is huge and validates the attaboys folks gave Young for his passing at Oklahoma and shows that he is not married to firing up 30 shots a game at any cost.


2. Off ball action has been non-existent.

When Young has been on the court, he either has had the ball or has been standing on the perimeter, ready to rotate back to the top to be a release valve. If the Hawks want Young to get some intentional space, they are going to have to run some screen action off ball for Young for him to come off screens open.

It is not something we have seen any of from Young, but he will have to add this to his repertoire and build up the commensurate stamina to run like Steph Curry, Kyle Korver or anybody that can be lethal from long range.

It is clear this is not the imperative for the Hawks in this Summer League. They are focused on the quarterbacking portions of Young's game, but surely to get the most out of Young's talent, off ball action is going to be required.

3. Defensive effort has been better than expected.

Young looked like a fire hydrant at times last year defensively, inspiring a no-confidence vote in his ability to defend at the NBA level. While this has been summer league and not the likes of most of the starting point guards in the league, Young has shown more intention on defense and has even made some plays.

Continued focus on getting stronger will help here as well, but the desire is there and that was not obvious to the eye last season.

Summary:

You could also add finishing at the hoop, strength with the ball, etc. All of it adds up to the project that Young is at the NBA level. The upside is there and the playmaking is already evident. But there is work to do both on Young's part and the team and coaching staff to unlock the best of what Trae Young can be at this level.

It is two games. You are watching something cooking that has been in the oven for 30 seconds. We are not even close to a finished product. Proponents of the Young pick are going to accentuate the positives they see while opponents of the pick are going to be quick with the condemnations and fear the Hawks blew a highly valuable pick.

It will be interesting to watch Young's confidence throughout this summer and this season. To realize the higher percentiles of his rookie season output, his confidence must remain high and passiveness must be relegated to the trash bin.

You may not have found two tougher teams, defensively, to start a career against, than Jevon Carter and the Grizzlies and the Spurs, especially since the gameplan was to stifle Young and force the ball to others.

Young showed more and more throughout the minutes in Salt Lake City that he was willing to make the right play and take the value in what the defense provided. That playmaking from the point guard position is always an important part of an offense.

We shall see if other teams in Las Vegas play a similar gameplan against Young or it is more loose. If it is more loose, we may see more pullups from Young if he has space, but if it isn't there, we should hope to see more of the same attack and feed the open value on the floor.

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