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Edmonds: The trade that’s working out for both teams

| Thursday, December 12, 2019

Every January for nearly the past 60 years, McCarthy Gymnasium in Oklahoma City would prepare for some of the biggest names in Oklahoma basketball to face off in the Bishop McGuinness Classic. Now before you scoff at the idea of big names and Oklahoma being associated in the same sentence, might I remind you that Oklahoma has been home to Blake Griffin, Josh Richardson, Mark Price and Wayman Tisdale, just to name a few. While not on par with Chicago or Los Angeles or New York, Oklahoma has consistently produced solid talent. One of their more recent stars is Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. Having attended Norman North High School, just 30 minutes south of my high school, and graduating in the same year, I saw Young play on several occasions, particularly at the McGuinness Classic. While every time he managed to put up some absurd stat line to the tune of 40-plus points, 10-plus steals by the end of the third quarter, I was not convinced this guy was the real deal. Boy, was I wrong.

After averaging 42.6 points per game and being named a McDonald’s All-American his senior year, Young decided to stick in his hometown and play for the Sooners, averaging an NCAA-leading 27.4 points per game to go along with his 8.7 assists per game. Still, I thought it was all hype. Don’t get me wrong, those numbers are insane. But several lackluster defensive performances midseason and the faint memory of him rarely passing the ball to his high school teammates seemed to spell disaster for him on the professional stage.

Then the Mavericks drafted him fifth in the 2018 NBA Draft … and then shipped him right off to Atlanta in exchange for a guy by the name of Luke Dončić. In his first season in the NBA, Young took the league in stride. While he was no longer averaging obscene numbers, he proved to be a franchise-building player who could step up with the game on the line. His game certainly took some hits, notably in his 3-point percentage, but he still managed to average 19.1 points per game on his way to being named one of three Rookie of the Year finalists, an award he eventually lost to none other than Dončić.

He’s only continued to build on that resume in his sophomore campaign. He is currently fourth in scoring in the NBA and has improved his 3-point shooting percentage to 38.2. Young still has some glaring weakness, not the least of which is his defense, which came back to bite him two nights ago against the Heat. It’s hard to draw many conclusions about his ability as a winner when he’s on a team that’s consistently in the bottom of the league, but at the very least he’s proved me wrong.

While I would hands down rather have Dončić, who’s currently lighting up the NBA with insane numbers and building a case for MVP consideration, I hesitate to say the Hawks definitively lost that trade. The Hawks gained a protected first-round pick and a player they could build their franchise around in Young. Meanwhile, Dallas gained the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki.

As an NBA fan, I just consider myself lucky to be able to watch these two guards come into their own just two seasons into their professional careers. While the Hawks, and up until recently the Mavericks, had a long ways to go to being competitive, should they ever achieve that, these two players have the potential to be centerpieces in one of the sports’ best rivalries.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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