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The Trae Young we hoped for in the NBA is actually here

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Young’s range is limitless. Is this the beginning of his All-Star campaign?

Trae Young drives on the Pistons.
Trae Young is off to a strong start in his sophomore season in the NBA.

Trae Young’s 32-foot three-point shot from the logo was even more impressive to watch than his 34-foot three-point shot from the other side of the court. He caught the ball right from where he’d shoot it, stared 7’1 Thon Maker right in the face, didn’t take a single dribble, and launched anyway.

Young could’ve done a number of other things with the ball. There were seven seconds left on the shot clock. Standing a full foot shorter than Maker, with quicker feet, he had opportunities to drive by him or kick out to another teammate. But what was special about Young at Oklahoma is translating now: he’s a fearless shot launcher.

Young toyed with a helpless Detroit Pistons defense for 37 minutes. He scored 38 points on 11-of-21 shooting with nine assists, seven rebounds, and six turnovers. Of those 21 shots, 10 of them were from three-point range. Six of those shots when in. Half of them were from 32 feet or deeper. The three-point line is 23.75 feet at its deepest.

We’re watching an alien on Earth.

Trae Young’s game was more than shooting, too

Almost as important as the ability to shoot from distance is the skillset to draw fouls and get to the free throw line. That’s what saves God-like shooters like James Harden and Steph Curry from awful shooting nights, and it’s something Young was good, but not elite at as a rookie. On Thursday night, he drove hard to the rim, and despite his small frame, took checks to the chest to get the free throw line 12 times, making 10 of them. That included an and-one at the basket and a four-point play off a deep-ball he sunk after contact.

Young was as great seeing the floor as he was at the end of last season, too. He had perfect chemistry in the pick-and-roll with John Collins, timing dribbles in rhythm with the big’s cuts to the basket. Even new acquisition Jabari Parker was the beneficiary of quick rolls to the cup.

There’s a certain spark watching the Hawks offense when Young has the ball. Similar to the early Curry years, teammates are eager to provide actions on- or off-the-ball, knowing Young will find them if they’re open, or take it upon himself to launch for a high-efficiency shot if he has the space. There are few better point guards out there to be rebuilding a franchise with.

Young could be an All-Star in Year 2

Young is going to have all the room in the world to operate an offense designed around him. John Collins is ready to rim-run. Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish will spot-up shoot around him. Bruno Fernando and Jabari Parker are bigs who can help spread the floor. It’s conceivable that Young could average a double-double in points and assists, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be close.

He’s also damn fun to watch. The unpredictability of how and when he’ll launch is a possession-by-possession delight. His handles are so tight and burst is so quick that anything’s possible. That threat alone is what caused Maker to take a step back as Young rainbowed the 32-footer right over his enormous self. The Hawks’ PG is one that fans will want to see on the big stage.

More than the Feb. contest, this could be the start of something really dangerous brewing in Atlanta. Elite point guards are running slim in the NBA (Hi, New York Knicks of the last decade-plus) and finding one of this offensive caliber so soon is an incredible initial puzzle piece. Now it’s a matter of finding out who else fits.

Free from lofty expectations, Young will take the Hawks to where they need to be.