Trae Young and Hawks just beat the Nets, they could make the NBA playoffs.
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On Wednesday, the Hawks and Nets both had over 100 points in the 3rd quarter...huh? Trae is shooting 50% from the field averaging over 30 a game. He’s averaging more points than minutes. The Hawks are 2nd in points per game, and 2nd in 3s made per game. And they are 3-1 in the season. They almost squeezed by the Nets.
The Hawks have 4 shooters that average over 4 3 pointers a game and shoot over 40% from 3, and then there’s Trae Young and Danilo Gallinari. The Hawks are gonna ride by this offense and die by this defense. And so far, well their offense has been enough. And a big part of that has been Trae Young. But the Hawks are not great defensively. They’ve allowed the 4th most points in the league.
This year, Trae has even more space to operate, and it’s because they have capable shooters everywhere. The Hawks run a lot of small ball. I don’t think we are mentioning this enough, but the Hawks adding Bogdan and Gallinari mean they have two guys that can create their own shot and knock it down. The Hawks didn’t really have shot creators. Cam Reddish isn’t there yet, and Huerter and Hunter have been more shooters. But this core is growing.
A big reason for Trae’s stats is actually the free throws. He’s averaging 15.5 free throw attempts a game. What? And he’s making 14 free throws a game. Forget James Harden, Trae is breaking the game. The best thing about Trae Young is supposed to be his shooting, but since he’s came into the league, I’ve said it probably has to be his passing. He’s averaged over 8 assists per game every season and his handles are just elite. He’s usually one step ahead, trying to fake out the help defender while his primary defender is with him. He’s clearing a lane before the lane is even open. Part of that is his passing. Trae just makes great reads, can thread the needle, put spin on the bounce pass, and find the open line to his teammate by contorting his body. And Trae still has his deep threes, but the shooting isn’t what’s giving him more points than minutes.
Trae Young was cheesing in that 4th quarter when the Hawks offense was stagnating against the Nets. He was spamming the same move. And this move has been part of his arsenal for a while. It’s the crab dribble, but it’s mostly a high crab dribble. A crab dribble is where the ball handler puts his body between the ball and the defender, usually like this with the defender behind him. This keeps the defender behind him and allows Trae to control the pace. He can keep it slow or burst from there and it’s hard for the defender to keep up with him since he’s behind. Don’t underestimate Trae’s speed now. Trae is so quick. His whole game is quick, his jumpshot, his layups, his handles. And it becomes a nightmare for a guy like Valančiūnas.
In the Nets game, we saw Trae sealing the defender, then intentionally slowing down to get some contact from the defender running to catch up and then drawing a foul because of the bump from behind. Trae’s not that heavy, weighing at only 180. He is small. Ok he’s probably around 190 but he’s still pretty small at 6’ 1” and so any contact like that will cause him to lose balance. It’s easier to call fouls this way, but it’s what also makes his ability to stay in this area so impressive. This hasn’t changed from last year, just improved on.
This is a huge part of why Trae is averaging that many free throws this year, because he is creating so much contact, but at the same time, he can keep going forward is he wants. By getting hit from behind, it’s daring the ref to call foul since Trae could’ve kept going but doesn't.
And don’t get me started on Trae’s floaters. This essentially makes everything so much more difficult for the defense because he can just start a floater from that midrange area, the defender runs into him, and it’ll always look like a foul since it’ll look like a natural move that Trae does so many times. I think in that Grizzlies game, he did it more than 5 times. He’s good at that floater and can hit it jumping off of any foot, but shoots it mainly with his right hand.
Trae is a problem, but we haven’t seen him go off shooting wise. It’s been a methodical breakdown of the defense. The Hawks are looking nice. It’s a race to the 8th seed, but this young core is showing more and more glimpses. This team got a lot of shooters and with Trae at the helm, I’m excited to see how he and this team grow, but what do you think? Can the Hawks make the playoffs?