Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young has a tough job, but the presence of veteran teammates like Vince Carter has made it quite a bit easier.
Young, who turned 20 years old in September, is tasked with helping rebuild a team that finished with the second-worst offensive rating in the Eastern Conference last season. He has experienced his share of hiccups along the way, but credits Carter and other players in his locker room for helping him stay poised through any struggles.
“I always tell people I’m in a lucky situation being around a team that’s rebuilding but with a really good coach and really good veterans like Jeremy Lin and guys like Vince who have been around the game,” explained Young, when he spoke with HoopsHype after a 144-127 defeat against the Brooklyn Nets on December 16.
Any first-year player would tell you that it is far from easy to adjust to life in the NBA. The competition is bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced than anyone a rookie has ever faced at any point in their life.
His team has just six wins and 23 losses more than one-third of the way through the season. That’s the fewest wins out of any team in the league up to this point. But Carter spoke to HoopsHype about how important those struggles are for the development of a young athlete.
“I think these growing pains will help him last as long as he wants to in this league as he gets older, as the game slows down, as things get easier for him,” Carter said. “So when he has been through some ups and downs and when he sees it for the second time around, it’ll be a lot easier.”
However, for someone like Young (who is known as a sharpshooter), shooting can be an especially hard thing to develop. Rhythm from three-point range is challenging to establish because it is so often dependent on confidence.
Young’s three-point percentage has been among the worst in the league. Young is 22-for-111 (19.8 percent) from beyond the arc since November 1, which is the worst among the 182 players who have had at least 50 attempts during that span.
“It’s the NBA,” Young said. “It’s going to happen. No one likes to lose, but losing is part of the growth that we’re going to have to go through. I’m just going to continue to do what has gotten me to this point. Even though my shot has not been falling, I’ve been trying to find other ways to impact the game.”
He has had his hand on 31.9 percent of buckets directly as a scorer or passer. That’s the best among all qualified rookies, per RealGM. He leads all rookies in both usage rate (26.9 percent) as well as touches per game (77.7) thus far.
That’s more touches than stars like Anthony Davis (76.2), Kyrie Irving (75.9) and Devin Booker (72.9) have had this season. Only four players (Mike Conley, James Harden, Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker) have received more passes per game than Young (70.9) has with the Hawks.
Even if his shot isn’t dropping, his role within Atlanta’s offense is undeniably huge for any player – let alone a rookie. Carter, who is in his 21st NBA season, says that the reps Young is getting now will help him take his game to the next level.
“The most important part is the knowledge of his position and running his team. Everything else will take care of itself. People will always talk about his shooting,” said Carter. “You have to run your team. Outside of himself individually, he also has to get John Collins and Kent Bazemore and the rest of his teammates going. That’s extremely important as your starting point guard.”