Trae Young’s dribble and passing moves have been a problem for defenders all season long. It’s how the Atlanta Hawks point guard has been able to offset a less-than-stellar shooting season and prove he’s still one of the NBA’s most exciting rookies, averaging eight assists with his 17 points per game.
Young entered the league at an inherent disadvantage at just over 6’ tall with a small frame and short arms, but his ability to manipulate the ball off-the-dribble is dizzying. He can’t out-muscle opponents, so instead, he pulls the strings of their minds like a magician and sends them one way while he goes another.
No victim has looked more embarrassing trying to stop him than the Detroit Pistons’ Bruce Brown.
Here’s the play that sent the Detroit guard going a full 360 degrees trying to locate the ball, Young, and an understanding for why his own eyes deceived him.
Trae Young had the defense all turned around with that one pic.twitter.com/zz1piAektU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 23, 2019
“What sets Trae apart is when he snaps the ball back between his legs, he glides,” Young’s personal trainer, Alex Bazzell, told SB Nation when asked to describe this move. “Watch his feet. Most people come to hard stops. Him and Steph [Curry] move exactly the same in this way. Kyrie [Irving] too.”
While you’re still dizzy, let’s break down what happened and how quickly Young read the scene as it unfolded.
1. Young tried to take a high pick at the top of the key, but it failed
To start the play, Young presumably would’ve curled right off Dewayne Dedmon’s high ball-screen. The first option would’ve given Young the opportunity to dribble right into a three-point shot over Blake Griffin, but Dedmon made no contact with Young’s defender.
Here’s where the pick should’ve been set.
And here’s what happened.
So Young had to improvise.
2. Young puts “the move” on Brown
Brown thought a rolling Dedmon could be a threat for a lob pass, and Griffin kept his eyes locked on Young, a lauded three-point shooter.
So, Young faked a behind-the-back pass to shake Brown. Instead of pocket-passing to Dedmon, as Brown suspected, Young spun the ball behind his leg to thrust momentum forward.
Brown not only took the bait, he hooked himself deep on the rod, and he’s on his way up to shore.
One phase complete.
3. Young still had one more obstacle, though
With Brown spinning like a fresh tornado into the distance, one layer of the defense was gone. But Griffin was still in position to stop Young, and had reinforcements on the way with big man Andre Drummond to his left.
With one last move, Young planted his feet, looked in the corner at teammate John Collins for the slightest second, and got Drummond to take a step in the wrong direction. That freed Dedmon.
For his final act, Young used his shoulders to fake a high alley-oop pass to Dedmon over Griffin, and instead bounced it right to the gap his behind-the-legs move created a split second earlier.
Young broke Detroit’s defense all by himself, which is incredible for anyone, especially a rookie.
Nothing comes easy for Young given his height and lack of length, meaning he needs to do just about everything perfectly. That’s why some were skeptical he could thrive coming out of Oklahoma.
But he’s proving he’s worth the bet the Hawks made on him each time he’s able to out-smart a parade of more athletically gifted peers. His point guard brain supersedes what his body lacks.