The Atlanta Hawks were one of the most surprising teams in the NBA last season. The Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in large part to the performance of Trae Young. Now entering his fourth season, Young is set on improving even more and carrying Atlanta to its first NBA Finals since the franchise was in St. Louis. One area in particular Trae wants to improve in is rare in today’s NBA, especially for 6-foot-1 point guards.
Trae Young wants to take more mid-range shots
Modern basketball is trending more and more toward three-pointers. Last season, there were 74,822 threes taken across the league, the second-most in NBA history. Additionally, 39.2% of all field goals attempted were threes. But Young, who averaged over six threes a game himself, wants to bring mid-range basketball back.
According to The Athletic, Young believes he’s not shooting as many mid-range shots as he should be. Last season, the fourth-year guard shot 46% from mid-range, putting him in the 77th percentile among guards according to Cleaning the Glass. But Trae only attempted 2.1 mid-range shots per game, which is four behind the league leader Russell Westbrook and well behind other All-Star guards like Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and DeMar DeRozan.
Trae did average one extra mid-range shot per game in the postseason, playing a key role in eliminating the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers. So by doing more of what makes him successful, Young can further improve as a scorer.
Young worked on his mid-range game with Kobe Bryant
Back when Trae Young was coming off of a phenomenal rookie season, the former Oklahoma Sooner worked with the late Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba is known as one of the biggest mid-range threats of all time, particularly from the second half of his Hall of Fame career.
Young trained with Kobe in the summer of 2019 to work on his mid-range game. The sessions came one year after Bryant worked with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum on the same thing. After working with Bryant, 22% of Tatum’s attempts the next season were long 2-point shots, placing him in the 95th percentile. However, Young’s increase came a year after his time with Kobe, as he attempted 36 more mid-range shots in his third season than in his second.
Part of Young not taking as many mid-range shots his first two years, however, is because of then-coach Lloyd Pierce. In Trae’s rookie season under Pierce, the Hawks ranked 29th in midrange attempts. They moved up to 23rd in his second season before finishing 17th last year under a combination of Pierce and Nate McMillan. With McMillan now at the helm full-time, Trae should be able to better utilize Kobe’s teachings from a couple of summers ago.
Trae Young should get the Atlanta Hawks back to the playoffs
Young has easily proved the doubters wrong since going fifth overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Through three seasons, the 23-year-old has averaged 24.1 points per game on 43.1% shooting. The best of Trae came last postseason, when the All-Star managed to drop 30 or more points eight times, including a ridiculous 48 points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But Trae is far from satisfied.
“The next step, we went to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s winning a championship,” said Young during Hawks Media Day. “I think, for us, we know that. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take work. We have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep getting better.”
Whether it’s a long two-pointer, a floater, or a dagger from 25 feet out, Trae gets buckets. Regardless of how he gets his points, he is good enough to bring the Hawks back to the postseason, and possibly beyond.