Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young is Already One of the NBA’s Best Passers

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A quick summation of the season so far from Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks – looked at specifically through the lens of his incredible passing ability.

When the Atlanta Hawks drafted Trae Young 5th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, many believed it was something of a reach – even though he was the best point guard prospect in the draft and the Orlando Magic would’ve loved to have him at 6th overall as their rock pounder of the future.

Instead, we all know what happened; Slovenian prodigy Luka Doncic was drafted 3rd overall by the Hawks and traded for the rights to Ice Trae and a future first round pick.

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With those machinations behind us, Atlanta Hawks fans have been able to enjoy the growth and development of Young – specifically as the team’s starting point guard and primary ballhandler and playmaker.

In particular, Young is already an elite passer whose control over the ball is almost supernatural. Ice Trae zips passes to players that didn’t even know they were open, bounces balls into impossibly small crevices of space and passes his teammates open better than almost any ballhandler in recent Atlanta Hawks history.

Recently, Young put on an astonishing display of distribution in the Rising Stars Game during All-Star weekend, along with his teammate John Collins:

Trae’s passing this season has been nothing short of amazing, and the numbers (from Basketball Reference) back it up. Young currently ranks 4th in both total assists with 442 and assist rate at 39 percent. Beyond that, his assists per game of 7.6 is 7th, which ranks behind only Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons and James Harden. Fairly impressive company for a 20-year-old rookie.

Beyond that, Young is producing 14.2 potential assists per game (per, which ranks behind only Westbrook, LeBron James, Simmons, Harden, Holiday and Lowry among players who have played at least 35 games.

In terms of catch-all metrics, Trae’s numbers have improved drastically since early in the season – especially on the offensive front, where his preternatural passing buoys his numbers.

ESPN’s Offensive Real Plus/Minus ranks Trae as the 26th best point guard in the NBA, ahead of Simmons and Zach LaVine as well as a cavalcade of former Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, Jeremy Lin and Dennis Schröder.

According to BBall Index’s Offensive Player Impact Plus/Minus, Young’s 0.8 OPIPM is second on the Atlanta Hawks in that metric behind only Collins at 2.2 OPIPM.

Lastly, Inpredictable’s Win Probability Added metric, which can be delineated per each counting stat, ranks Young’s assist win probability added of 12.37 as 7th in the league behind the same players that best him in previous categories.

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The Atlanta Hawks have a bona fide passing genius on their roster, something that the team has not been able to boast in a long time. Trae Young is honestly a generational passer, and once this team gets more talent around him, the rest of the NBA better watch out.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference,, ESPN, BBall Index and Inpredictable.