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This season Trae Young is proving the underdogs are on top

True to his nickname “Ice Tray,” Trae Young is lighting up the scoreboards this year, coming up big in the clutch, and doing it in big team wins.

The Atlanta Hawks are currently 4-6 but have picked up impressive wins over the Spurs and Nuggets. Last night versus the extremely formidable Nuggets, Trae dropped 42 points and 11 assists. His success and aptitude as a point guard in his second season are extremely impressive and rather unprecedented.

The Hawks prospects of making the playoffs did not seem too strong just a couple weeks ago. Young tweaked his ankle in a play that looked like it could have sidelined him for the entire season. Then forward John Collins (who has great chemistry with Young) was suspended 25 games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.

Once an extremely exciting season was on the verge of failure before it even got going, and Hawks fans (and NBA fans overall) had to bite their nails in desperation.

A stroke of luck was found when Trae was back after just a couple of games. In Collins’ absence, other role players have stepped up, such as Jabari Parker, former number two overall pick.

With the leadership of Young, the Hawks look once again like a fringe-playoff team in the weaker Eastern Conference, and after an impressive win over the Nuggets last night, Trae is showing us he has another element to his game: leadership, and the ability to make his teammates better.

Trae’s path to being one of the top-three point guards and top-10 players so far this season was not an easy one though. He was a consummate professional in college and otherworldly star, but still, the doubters’ voices loomed the largest.

Young played college basketball for Oklahoma, and in his first and only season for the Sooners, he became the first and only player to ever lead the NCAA in both points and assists in a season.

He was a star of epic proportions, drawing comparisons to Steph Curry because of his slick handle and deep shot-making ability. But even after such a successful season, the verdict was out on Young and supposed “experts” were surprisingly low on him.

Then it was draft day and the Hawks had the number three pick. But instead of drafting Trae, the Hawks traded the pick to the Mavericks, who in return gave them the fifth pick and a protected pick the following season.

The Mavericks selected Slovenian phenom Luka Doncic, who is also lighting up the league this year, and the Hawks selected Young, who they were high on and confident would still be there at the five spot. This last draft, the Hawks selected DeAndre Hunter, a skilled two-way wing, with the extra pick they received from the Mavericks.

Scouts and fans alike cast aspersions on the Hawks for the trade. Doncic was already a superstar in Europe, and there was little doubt he would be a superstar in the NBA. When he started off hot right out of the gate, all eyes were on the Hawks and their young guard.

But what we have seen from the second half of last season to this one is Trae Young is a star himself, and both players work perfectly in the systems they operate in. Both teams should be thrilled with the trade, which is unbelievably uncommon in sports. What’s even greater is the two young men root for each other. That is the pinnacle of what good-natured fans like to see.

Is this the year of stars proving haters wrong? In a bigger sports context, both Lamar Jackson and Trae Young were doubted before their draft.

“Lamar can’t throw, he should move to wide receiver, running back.”

“Trae is too small, he won’t be able to do this against NBA athletes.”

Now both superstars are reveling in their recent success, brushing off the haters, and striving for more.

Like the Ravens, the Hawks are a talented team with a great coach, but neither squad would be what they are without their young leader.

And the potential the teams possess is due to these young men almost exclusively.

Trae Young is not the next Steph Curry, he is the first Trae Young.

Welcome to superstardom Ice Tray, Long May He Reign.


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