The below has been excerpted from this week's Outlet Pass, to get caught up on everything else you need to know in the NBA this week read the rest of the column here.
Trae Young’s notorious three-point shot has yet to come around—he takes some exceptionally difficult shots and has made fewer than 30 percent of them—but he might already be one of the best passers in the NBA, top ten in every category worth mentioning with an undeniably positive impact on teammates. Atlanta’s assist rate is 66 percent with Young on the floor and 56.8 percent—a team low—when he’s not. (That disparity equals the gap between being third and 19th in the league right now.)
As Hawks GM Travis Schlenk recently told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears: “He got a lot of notoriety for his deep shooting in college, which is obviously great. But his court vision at his age, 19 years old, to be able to see the floor like he does, and ability to pass left hand, right hand, off the bounce, hitting the guys down the floor, that is what really stood out.”
Young doesn’t pound the ball or even have to penetrate in order to draw help and find an open man. Guys simply run the floor faster and cut into space harder, knowing he’ll hit them on the money if/when they get open. His kick aheads alone deserve to be nominated by the MacArthur Fellows Program. This brings us to a pair of his passes that, so far, are probably my two favorite of the entire season.
The first came a few days ago against Miami. Young was trapped high on the right wing and appeared to have his whole line of sight blocked, but a quick up-fake lifted Bam Adebayo off his feet and out of position. Young then pivoted middle and, using his left arm, fired a blind cannon at Omari Spellman who was standing in the weak-side corner. The ball must've traveled at least 35 feet before it arrived in Spellman's shot pocket a split second before the defense’s rotation.
Words don’t do this pass justice. It’s something only a prodigy would think of, and immediately makes you fantasize about the realms of Young’s potential that have yet to be realized. He’ll never shoot as well as Steph Curry, but he already has the same range. Mix that with an unselfishly inventive approach to commanding Atlanta’s offense and it’s not insane to think he can lead the league in assists and scoring some day—the former is a borderline guarantee.
The next pass came during a nationally televised game against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. (For the record, even before Atlanta uses the future pick Dallas gave them to move up on draft night, it appears both teams won that trade!). Young rebounds a missed three, takes two dribbles, then whips a one-handed line drive at Taurean Prince as he streaks up the left sideline. A corner three is essentially created out of thin air!