Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young snubbed from Team USA FIBA World Cup roster

Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Atlanta Hawks. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

For the second time, Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young has been snubbed by Team USA.

And this time around, his exclusion is certainly more egregious after he lobbied for the opportunity in April.

“God willing, I’m on the USA Team,” Young said during his exit interview on April 28 on the Hawks’ YouTube channel. “I’ve been on USA Team in high school. At this level, you just… want to be on the national team and the Olympic team someday…Hopefully, I get an opportunity to be a part of that.”

The first time, in 2019, Young was just going into his second NBA season. And, while he had made the All-Rookie Team after averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 assists in his inaugural season, that would have been more about projecting whereas now, we have proof of his ability.

This is in no way an indictment of the players selected.

The loaded roster includes the last two Defensive Players of the Year Jaren Jackson and Marcus Smart of the Memphis Grizzlies and first-time All-Stars Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Indiana Pacers point Tyrese Haliburton among others.

It is more about Young’s continued inability to break through in these situations, a trend that has become more obvious over the last two seasons.

Young, 24, has led the NBA in total assists in back-to-back years and led in total points in 2021-22 which, when paired with his assists, gave him a place in NBA history alongside Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson and earned him his first All-NBA selection.

Despite that, Young was not named an All-Star this past season and he has alternated All-Star selections over the last three seasons, earning his first after that initial Team USA snub in 2019 and again for his efforts during the 2021-22 season when the Hawks finished with the ninth-best record in the Eastern Conference, earning a postseason berth through the Play-In Tournament.

They were bounced by the Miami Heat in five games.

This past season, the Hawks tied with the Toronto Raptors for the eighth-best record and once again had to work through the Play-In to get to the playoffs only to once again get bounced in five games, this time by the Boston Celtics, much to Young’s chagrin.

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There was a poll conducted by The Athletic that showed a small portion of Young’s peers view him as the most overrated player in the NBA.

But his exclusion from Team USA has been largely blamed on his ball-dominant playing style.

Playing on the international stage has often served as a turning point for some of the game’s up-and-coming players where they are forced to adapt their games for the greater good, a process we have seen benefit Boston Celtics swingman – and Georgia native – Jaylen Brown and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in recent years.

The argument against Hawks star Trae Young is part myth

At Young’s position, the inclusion of New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson is arguably the most glaring inclusion over the Hawks’ star.

Brunson, 26, had a really good season and likely should have earned his first All-Star trip this season; proof that it’s not necessarily personal with Young. But he is not the player that Young is as a scorer – though he is really, really good – and certainly not as a passer.

He is bigger which is often used to denigrate the smaller Young.

But whatever defensive advantage that is supposed to have given him is equally eliminated in the postseason when teams can target him in halfcourt actions. That much was on display during the Knicks’ second-round series against the Heat this postseason where Miami ran the same double-ball screen on him five times in a row.

Brunson does, however, play off the ball better than Young does which was a knock against the Hawks star this past season even after the inclusion of Dejounte Murray.

While Brunson cut his teeth with the Dallas Mavericks playing alongside their helio-centric star in Luka Doncic, Young has been the Hawks’ Doncic. There are only three players with a higher usage rate than Young since he entered the league (minimum 300 games), per Stathead.

Doncic is one of them along with reigning MVP Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Barring an invite to join Team USA in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, Young will have to wait until the 2027 FIBA World Cup in Qatar before getting another crack at representing his country and proving his doubters wrong.