Atlanta Hawks: For Trae Young, Next Step is Defense

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

A quick look at the statistical profile of Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks on the defensive side of the floor.

Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks had the best rookie season in franchise history in 2018-19 on the way to being named unanimously to the All-Rookie First Team.

Ice Trae immediately captured the attention of Hawks fans and NBA fans in general with his saucy dribble package, ability (and willingness) to pull up for super-deep triples with regularity as well as his preternatural passing ability.

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Though Young has already shown the ability to be an offensive fulcrum for the Hawks going forward, for him to truly be an impactful, NBA landscape-altering superstar (at least statistically), he will have to improve on the defensive side.

Last season, Young was easily one of the worst defenders in the NBA. According to BBall Index’s defensive player impact plus/minus, only one player (Devin Booker) ranked as a worse defender than Young’s -3.2 rating in that metric. Notably, fellow rookie Collin Sexton also clocked in with a -3.2.

In ESPN’s popular defensive real plus/minus metric, Young was the single-worst defender in the league with a -4.78 clip in DRPM. Sexton was second to last with a -4.62.

According to CraftedNBA, a new site that provides customized categories for various statistics, Young was ranked #1 in the “sieve” category, which dictates defenders who give up a lot on the defensive end. His Crafted Defensive Plus/Minus (which combines PIPM, RPM, and FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO metric) was -4.47, which was lower than Collin Sexton (-4.35), Jamal Crawford (-4.05), Devin Booker (-3.56) and Kevin Knox (-3.55).

However, this story is not meant to disparage Young. Instead, it is meant to highlight his clear shortcomings on the defensive end and showcase the fact that if Young were to improve his defense – even slightly – his offensive contributions would be even more striking, and he might take that next step into superstar territory for the Atlanta Hawks.

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Though Sports Illustrated believes John Collins has a more star-ready game than Young, this league is dominated by guards. Trae Young will never be defined by his defense for the Atlanta Hawks, but if he can become even serviceable on that end, the sky’s the limit for his future.