On April 26, 2014, I was at a wedding. It was a great wedding but (apologies to Dave and Kim) I wasn’t exactly paying attention at the beginning of the ceremony. The groom is a Mavericks fan, as were a couple of his groomsmen. And wouldn’t you know it, his wedding fell on the day that a scrappy Mavericks team played in Game 3 of the first round against the San Antonio Spurs. The wedding party filed in to the venue in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
I had somehow become the de facto score updater for any interested parties in the lead up to the ceremony. I guess probably because I’m a dirtbag. So you’d better believe that I gave a not-small fist pump and caught the eyes of a couple of frantic groomsman as the game ended.
And I’m sure we all remember how—with Vince Carter, our 16-year veteran sixth man, absolutely canning a shot in the corner to put San Antonio away. Carter’s shot was played up as something of a bookend for his career. Vince had made good on what he had failed to do in a similar situation more than a decade before. On April 26, 2014 Vince Carter’s career had come full circle. He could walk away happy.
221 days later, Trae Young played his first high school game. And now, close to 2000 days later, Carter and Young are teammates. Father Time can get bent.
Now, after all that Mavericks/Spurs bullshit up there, this piece is somehow still about the Atlanta Hawks.
Three seasons of Vince Carter in Dallas were enough to make me a fan of his forever. So maybe I like the Hawks. But, one season of reading ridiculous Trae Young takes from the worst of the worst of Hawks internet was enough for a lifetime. So maybe I hate the Hawks..? Reality is probably somewhere in between.
The Hawks are going to be very fun this season. I will watch Atlanta games and I will enjoy them. They will likely not bore me. Plus, Vince is there! Soon to play in his fourth decade of NBA action and that is somehow not a fake thing I made up! John Collins will make an All-Star team soon, AND is good on podcasts—a rarely seen combination. The extremely young wing combo of Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter makes me very jealous as a Mavericks fan. Kevin Huerter is absolutely beloved by a section of the basketball internet. Chandler Parsons is absolutely beloved by my sister. And who could forget: Jabari Parker and Evan Turner for some reason!
This roster is a little weird the more I look at it, but they’ve got a lot of guys who can credibly see the floor in the NBA. That’s an important part of building a successful team in the league. And then we have the jet propulsion engine of the Atlanta Air Force: Rayford Trae Young. Now as I alluded to above, Trae Young is a young man who was an even younger man when Vince Carter, a very old man, was already a regular old man. And now they are second-year teammate men.
Trae is a damn good basketball player. ON OFFENSE, I KNOW I KNOW. Let’s get it out of the way, Trae Young was cheesecloth on defense last year. Opposing teams were going right through him, no matter how much his tiny arms might flail about. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Rookie point guards are bound to get roasted for a while until they get their sea legs under them. If he can show even a little improvement, say to somewhere better than ‘literally the worst defender in the league’, it could make a huge difference for the Hawks.
But the deification of Trae as an offensive player really does have something to it. His open-from-anywhere shooting and his was-it-actually-ever-underrated passing make him a dangerous player in the modern NBA. If Cam Reddish ends up being a valuable contributor (in extremely small sample size theatre: Reddish is shooting 25 percent from three in the preseason) there is a chance that both the Hawks and the Mavericks genuinely feel like they got the better end of that trade.
I know that “really the trade worked out great for everyone” is generally just the team that lost the trade being polite. So let me say, unequivocally: The Dallas Mavericks won the Luka Doncic/Trae Young trade. Luka Doncic is a better player than Trae Young and will remain a better player than Trae Young throughout their careers. If Cam Reddish somehow becomes Paul George, get back to me and I’ll reassess.
Trae Young and the Hawks will play fun basketball, at the very least. And while the Hawks and Mavericks are not traditional rivals, that draft night trade will forever link them together, the media and NBA at large making the comparison between the two year after year. With both teams re-tooling around their young stars, we could see this become a bigger rivalry in years to come.