Trae Young has been phenomenal for a few months now with the Atlanta Hawks, but is it enough to win the Rookie of the Year trophy over Luka Doncic?
As a 20-year-old rookie, Trae Young has done an amazing job in the 2018-19 season of showing those who doubted him their stupidity, while making the Atlanta Hawks look like organizational masterminds for their draft-night trade.
Currently averaging 18.5 points and 7.8 assists in just over 30 minutes a night, the former Oklahoma Sooner looks every bit the part of a franchise point guard, with a dazzling display of long-range bombs, eye-opening dribble moves and passes that may or may not invoke memories of a certain two-time MVP out in the Bay Area.
The Dallas Mavericks‘ own Luka Doncic has been the prohibitive favorite to win Rookie of the Year this season, with numbers on par with some of the all-time greats. But with Young on an absolute tear, coupled with the sharp decline of the Mavs as a whole, it may be time to revisit what was once presumed to be a dormant conversation.
In the 15 games since the All-Star break, Young has averaged 24.9 points, 8.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game, and while efficiency was an issue early on in the season, experience has gone a long way in helping him correct that with a shooting line of .442/.404/.872 over that same time frame.
Granted, 15 games is a relatively small sample size — less than 20 percent of the NBA’s regular season, in fact. No matter how good one’s performance may be, it shouldn’t take away from the total body of work Doncic has managed to put together, with averages of 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists in just 32.2 minutes per game.
Except, in that same time frame that Young has put everyone on notice, Dallas as a whole has collapsed quite a bit, going from a 26-31 record to winning just two out of their next 15 games. The Hawks, meanwhile, have gone 6-9 since the break, looking the part of a team on the rise after posting only a 19-39 record in the games prior.
Being three games under .500 is nothing to write home about, but in watching that team play you see their continued development on a nightly basis. Head coach Lloyd Pierce has done wonders for the youngsters by letting them grow out of the mistakes they were making early on. They’re clearly trending upwards while the Mavericks are going the opposite direction, looking to tank in order to increase their odds of retaining their top-five protected first round pick.
Do wins factor into the conversation as much for Rookie of the Year as they do for say the MVP award? Probably not, but the sudden drop-off in team success can’t possibly be good for Doncic’s image in what has now become a two-man race.
When it comes to individual awards and even contending for championships, it’s not always about who’s played the best overall of the course of the season. Sometimes, it’s about building momentum at the perfect time, and Young has certainly used that tactic almost to perfection since the All-Star break.
Doncic still holds the edge overall this season in both individual and team success, and that very well may be what nets him the win in this battle when it comes time to hand out the awards in late June. However, if recency bias is a legitimate thing, Atlanta’s perceived improvement as a whole, coupled with Young’s uptick in production, may wind up having him cross the finish line just a fraction earlier than his draft-day counterpart.