That, in and of itself, is not the most egregious thing – players have alternated All-Star-caliber seasons before and Young’s has certainly been marred by the growing pains of learning new teammates, particularly, Dejounte Murray. But, in the wake of Nate McMillan’s dismissal, one of his coaching brethren seems to be siding with the once-celebrated head coach.
“It’s a Trae Young vs a Nikola Jokic League,” tweeted Hall of Fame head coach George Karl on February 21. “Me first vs We first.”
Young is averaging 26.7 points on 56.8% true shooting, both of which are down from last season. His 2.9 rebounds per game are a career-low while his 32.4% mark matches his career-low numbers from his rookie season.
There is that caveat of adjustment.
“There was a vote ranking players, East and West,” began former NBA star Gilbert Arenas on ‘No Chill with Gilbert Arenas’ on Fubo Sports. “And the players ranked Trae Young 12th. Now, [what] I want you to do is drug test them ASAP. And I’m not talking about w***. I’m talking about the good stuff. All the players that voted and they have Trae Young 12th, they’re on drugs.”
Young finished seventh in the final voting tally thanks to fans ranking him fifth and the media ranking him sixth.
Stephen Jackson: Peers Showing Trae Young ‘Respect in a Different Way’
In some ways, Young’s status among his peers in this vote could be a sign of great respect.
“That’s respect in a different way,” former NBA champion Stephen Jackson told Rachel Nichols on ‘What’s Burnin’ with Rachel Nichols on Showtime Basketball on January 31. “Y’all put me at the bottom because y’all probably hating on me because I talk so much trash and I’m cocky. But I’m averaging 28 [PPG] and I guarantee you, every time we step on that court, everything that you say I don’t do, I do and I put points on you. I get 28 points on everybody out here so you might not like it but you gotta respect it.”
This is not a random collection of opinions of the mercurial Young. All of them have a unique perspective on the conversation.
Karl dealt with his fair share of polarizing stars from Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp with the Seattle Supersonics in the 90s to Carmelo Anthony and an aging Allen Iverson with the Denver Nuggets in the 2000s.
Arenas and Jackson each had their fair share of low-light moments in the NBA.
“He’s one of those guys that, he wants to compete every night,” Jackson said of Young. “He don’t care who you is, he’s going to talk his noise. And he has a certain swagger about himself…He has a chip on his shoulder, Rach, and I don’t blame him.”
Arenas was more focused on the omission than Young’s demeanor or even the team’s standing.
“F*** the record,” Arenas said. “Find me 11 players in the Eastern Conference that’s putting up 27 [points] and 10 [assists]. 27 and 10 and you’re talking about he’s the 12th best.”
Young has previously said that he wouldn’t want to attend the All-Star game as a replacement so it was less surprising to see him left off the final roll call. But, as Arenas alluded to, Young currently ranks second in the East among guards in scoring behind Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell and second in assists behind James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers.
He is tops in the conference among guards in both total assists and total points.
His total assist lead the entire league one season after he led in total assists and total points despite the addition of Murray and a dramatic dropoff in three-point shooting around him, namely with the departures of Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter.
Jokic is a two-time MVP averaging 24.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists this season. He is also a five-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection. But, for what it’s worth, he and Young have the same number of championships and even Conference Finals appearances.
Surely the Hawks and Young are more focused on securing homecourt advantage for at least the Play-In Tournament.
They are 3.5 games out of the six-seed (New York Knicks) and 5.5 out of fifth, the latter of which might be a little lofty but could still happen with the Brooklyn Nets trading away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.