Trae Young put his name in the lights during last season’s playoff race, leading the Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, before they were defeated by eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.

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While his performances against the Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in the previous round solidified his position as one of the league’s next great point guards, it was his performance at Madison Square Garden in the first round against the New York Knicks that solidified him. like one. of the great showmen of the league.

Bowing in the middle of the court after draining a dagger triple, Young enjoyed the boos and ire of the voracious hometown Knicks crowd, who rallied against a newly discovered MSG villain.

“I know where we are,” Young said. “I know there are a lot of shows in this city. And I know what they do when the show ends. “


Everything about Young’s game is that of an artist, drawing cheers and gasps from his long-range shots, And-1 mixtape moves off the dribble, and alley-oop passes that end in John Collins detonating at the rim.

Young has largely leaned on his new role as MSG’s villain as a fledgling rivalry between the Knicks and Hawks, which will gain even greater attention as the first game on the board on Christmas Day 2023.

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The Knicks, who have been a Christmas regular, return after not playing since 2018, while the Hawks are back on NBA main day for the first time since 1989, nine years before Young was born.

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Beyond being the most hated man in New York City, Young has done more than embrace his role as a spectacular player, he makes a strong case for being the best point guard in the Eastern Conference.

Through 29 games this season, Young is outscored only by Kevin Durant in scoring, averaging 27.0 points, the best number of shots of his career, 46.0 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from deep at 7.1 attempts per game.

While his 9.3 assists per game are third in the league, behind only James Harden and Chris Paul, with their overall influence on the Hawks’ offense nothing short of immense.

Young isn’t just performing at a high level for the Hawks, his numbers are putting him at an all-time high. In December, Young became the first Hawks player to record five straight games of more than 25 points and more than 10 assists. The last player to do so was Russell Westbrook in his MVP winning the 2016-7 season. according to Hawks PR.

In NBA history, there have only been 14 other instances of a player averaging at least 27.0 points and 9.0 assists over the course of a full regular season.According to StatHead, Young did so in just his second NBA season. in 2019-20 and looks good on the way to do it again this turns around.

Oscar Robertson did it eight times between 1961-68, while Tiny Archibald is the only other player to do it more than once achieving the feat between 1971-73. The other three players on the list: Russell Westbrook (2016-17), who was named MVP that season after averaging a triple-double, and James Harden (2016-17) and LeBron James (2017-18) finished second in MVP. . voting in their respective seasons.

The Hawks are out of the East playoff picture, hovering around .500, keeping Young out of the MVP conversation for now. He earned an honorable mention in Sporting News’ recent MVP Ladder, placing him just outside the top five, but if the Hawks repeat the second half of last season, don’t be surprised to hear Young’s name in the mix.

Likely a starter in the All-Star Game in Cleveland in February, Young has split from the point guard group in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons have yet to play a game this season for the Nets and 76ers respectively, Kemba Walker has had his troubles in New York, while Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball fall to the bottom tier.

Young is alone as the best point guard in the East right now and perhaps his only real competition in the league is Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Luka Doncic. Ja Morant is quickly putting his name together with the best point guards in the league, but when you look at the landscape, there is no denying that Young has established himself as a top five point guard and, by his numbers, a top 10 player. it is not. That is insane.