• Joshua Gamel

Is Trae Young an All-Star?

Before the 2019-2020 NBA season started, I predicted second-year point guard Trae Young would undeniably make the 2020 All-Star Game. The claim relied on three key points: the success of the young Hawks, Atlanta’s possible return to the postseason, and the individual triumphs of Young.

I believed Trae Young would put up the figures to make a case for himself as one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference, and statistically he has. But to earn an All-Star bid, he’ll need to out duel the likes of Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker, and others.

Young’s All-Star candidacy is, at the moment, a little more complicated than anticipated. Let’s explore it from all angles. The good, the bad, and the ugly if you will.

The Good

Young is maintaining offensive numbers that establish him as one of the best guards in the East. He leads all point guards in points per game with 28.8. In addition, he is second is assists only to Ben Simmons, averaging 8.3 per game this season.

Young also has the highest usage percentage of all guards in the East, carrying 33.9 percent of Atlanta’s offensive burden. Only Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, and Zach LaVine have a usage percentage of over 30 among guards in the conference. Remarkably, Young has this type of production despite being tied with Luka Doncic as the most double-teamed or trapped guard in the league.

Trae’s three-point percentage is not necessarily astounding at 36.8 percent, but considering his average distance per attempt is 27.5 feet - good for first in the league - that is an exceptionally impressive completion rate. Young has connected on 51 three-pointers of more than 30 feet since coming into the league, the next best being Steph Curry, James Harden, and Luka Doncic with 27. This changes the calculus for opposing defenses considerably.

Young also only trails five colleagues in offensive plus-minus: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James, Karl Anthony-Towns, Harden, and Doncic.

The Bad

Young’s defense really compromises his All-Star case. He holds the league’s eighth worst defensive plus/minus at -3.4; Atlanta is roughly three points worse defensively while Young is on the floor.

Given his build and stature, it is safe to say that Young will never be a superb defender. Players such as Curry, Walker, and Isaiah Thomas have all made multiple All-star Teams despite their lack of defensive prowess, the latter being among the worst defensive guards in the league for several seasons. Still, it is a big barrier for Young’s All-Star contention.

The Ugly

It’s Atlanta’s overall performance that is the real potential nail in Young’s All-Star coffin. Predicted the Hawks would be in the running for the eight seed this season. Clearly that is not going to happen. The Hawks currently possess a league-worst 8-28 record.

The continued improvement of John Collins and Kevin Huerter mixed with the development of lottery picks Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter were much anticipated heading into the season. Collins’ 25-game suspension, Huerter injury battles, and the lack of production from Reddish have all played a role in the regression of the Hawks.

Although the All-Star selections are an individual award, there has been a correlation in players of proficient teams being selected over those on lottery-bound squads. And even from the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Young has competition in Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal.

The End Result

At the end of the day, Trae Young is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA. He is an electrifying playmaker, and possesses Steph Curry-esque range on his shooting. And like Curry (and even Steve Nash), sometimes great guards get a pass on the defensive end.

The thing that will affect Young’s chances the most will be team success. There are plenty of guards who are also playing at an elite level whose teams are winning games. Still, the last time a player averaged more than 28 points and eight assists without making an All-Star game was Tiny Archibald in 1972 on a 30-win Cincinnati Royals team.

I predict Trae Young will be selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team this year. He is emerging as one of the best guards in the league, and his impressive offensive stats are undeniable.