Hawks' Trae Young sends message on East rival guard: 'Nobody can tell me'

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young weighed in on both Game 7 in action as the NBA playoffs rolled on without him and his team.
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Trae Young’s interest in basketball didn’t stop because the Atlanta Hawks aren’t in the playoffs.  

Young has been a big talking point while most of the NBA is already into their offseason planning. 

But his focus has been on his off-the-court endeavors, his family, and enjoying the performances being put on. 

With two Game 7s taking place, Young had a couple of key thoughts to share. In one, he took a moment to shine the light on one of the unsung heroes of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell.

“Nobody can tell me T.J. McConnell don’t have game,” Young said in a post on X along with a sly smiling emoji on May 19.

McConnell is averaging playoff career highs of 10.8 points and 5.3 assists. 

He averaged 11.9 points, 6.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in the series that went the distance against the New York Knicks. 

He also scored double figures five times in the series. But it was his hustle that shined most with McConnell’s defense among the many variables negatively impacting Knicks star Jalen Brunson.

The 32-year-old McConnell still have one year left on his four-year, $33 million contract.

Otherwise, he might make for a savvy addition for a Hawks team that continued to lack point-of-attack defense even after adding Dejounte Murray.

The hope is that 2023 first-round pick Kobe Bufkin can step into that role. But a player like McConnell would offer veteran insurance in case he proves incapable of that much responsibility at this point or better suited to play off the ball.

That has not been the case, though, perhaps minimizing the need for such an addition.

Hawks' Trae Young hypes up Timberwolves

Young’s other thought also leaned towards the defensive end, lauding the Minnesota Timberwolves for their win over the reigning champion Denver Nuggets.

“Wolves got a SQUAD man!” Young posted after the come-from-behind victory on May 19.

The Timberwolves trailed by as many as 20 points in the contest. But they held the Nuggets to 35.9% shooting from the floor and a 4-for-21 mark from beyond the arc in the second half, a trend of theirs all season long.

The Hawks’ looming decision on whether to break up Young and Dejounte Murray is a driving storyline of the offseason.

One way to make them better together would be to construct a roster like Minnesota’s.

That’s easier said than done. But the Hawks already have their dynamic offensive star like Anthony Edwards in Young and a potent backcourt mate capable of running the offense like Mike Conley in Murray.

And while Jalen Johnson is a different type of player than Karl Anthony-Towns, the third-year forward is on a star trajectory of his own. Jaden McDaniels? De’Andre Hunter.

The Hawks could also land their own “Rudy Gobert” in Alexandre Sarr in the draft.

That is in addition to having Onyeka Oknogwu already in a Naz Reid-esque role and Bufkin for a Nickeil Alexander-Walker-like impact. While these aren’t 1-for-1 comparisons, it’s not hard to envision a world where the Hawks function far more efficiently than we have seen.