Like Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum, who were in a sense traded for each other in the 2017 NBA Draft, we’ll associate Luka Doncic with Trae Young for as long as their careers last. The Mavericks and Hawks made a bold swap on draft night which sent Doncic to Dallas for Young and a top-5 protected first-rounder to Atlanta.
Some saw Doncic as the most assured franchise cornerstone in the draft, coming off a multiple-MVP and championship season in Real Madrid, the best professional basketball team outside the NBA. Trading him for a physically flawed point guard and an additional asset was a risk for Atlanta, but it was one the team was willing to take. The Hawks are much further from playoff contention than Dallas after all. And that’s why this trade might work for both sides.
Whereas there’s a clear winner and loser (for right now, at least) in the Sixers-Celtics swap, Hawks and Mavs fans may both come away happy with their point guard selections, who both look to be Rookie of the year candidates.
Luka Doncic is ready to take the reins of the Mavs offense right now
Aside from a lackluster opening night, Doncic has been explosive and every bit of what was advertised from his EuroLeague seasons. In his past two games, he’s scored 45 points on 15-of-30 shooting, including 7-of-17 from deep, nine assists, nine rebounds, a block, a steal. He’s been a bit sloppy with nine turnovers, but it’s forgivable.
The Mavericks have talent albeit without a true superstar; most of its roster needs to be spoon-fed looks and delivered the ball to spot-up from distance or dunk it through. Their offensive identity can now be defined by the offensive antics of their Wonder Boy’s drives through the lane and lobs to the rim.
Doncic has especially paired well with new Maverick DeAndre Jordan, who’s been awarded a handful of the easiest buckets he’s had in the post-Lob City era. Doncic’s massive 6’7 body demands attention as it barrels towards the cup, which has often let Jordan slip for easy buckets. The two are linking up for three assists per game.
And Doncic is scoring well himself, too. There were questions about Doncic’s bigger body, and how he’d find his way by quicker athletes. But Doncic is clearing all red flags with his changes of speed and pure brute.
He’s showing he can shoot off the dribble:
And that he can stop in an instant to shake defenders on moves to the hoop:
The Mavericks have to feel confident in their choice, even if it cost them another first-round pick in this upcoming draft. Their future is likely coming in free agency anyway.
Trae Young has been spectacular, too.
At 6’2 with a modest frame and resume that paled in comparison to Doncic’s, Young was a boom or bust pick for Atlanta. But with no star talent within five years of his prime, it was a gamble the Hawks could take if it meant adding another first-round asset — and it’s paying off.
In his last two games, Young has scored 55 points on 20-of-41 shooting, including 10-of-23 from distance and dished 20 assists. He’s shown all of the passing and deep-shooting efficiencies he did at the collegiate level. He’s mastering the position for someone with a limited frame, and it’s been damn impressive for a 20-year-old.
Young is a much different player from Doncic — nearly five inches shorter, and not close to the rebounder — but he’s nearly as good a passer with much better range.
He sees great over the top of defenses to find three-point shooters (he and Taurean Prince connect for one three-point assist per game), and he’s crafty enough to get the ball down low despite his small wingspan.
He’s having no trouble getting the rim:
And he’s firing from impossible range like always:
Even if he shoots poorly from the field, he’s far from a one-dimensional player. He’s orchestrating the offense and finding the open man. As Atlanta grows, it should have no trouble finding complements to his skillset. The pieces will fit.
Sometimes both teams are winners
It’s too early to tell if Doncic or Young are head and shoulders above the others, but both are already proving they’re cut to star in this league. The Mavericks took the more sure bet to build towards a contender and it cost them. The Hawks had rebuilding time to take a gamble and took an offer that’s rarely on the table. Both are paying off.
Enjoy the battle between these two, because there should be many, many more to come.