There are two ways to view the Steph Curry-fication of basketball. The curmudgeonly take — one that does, in fairness, have some merit — is that relentlessly hoisting up threes from all over the court takes away some of the artfulness of the game. Unless you are one of the players who have worked tirelessly to add that shot to your arsenal, it’s probably not one that a player should take. Seeing as how kids in high school (and younger) have assuredly not had the time to really master this, and there are other skills that are worth getting down before adopting the two-time MVP’s jump-shooting habits, this hurts the game and those who play it more than it helps.
The other way to view it is that when a player is able to acquire that skill of seemingly limitless range, my goodness, is it fun to watch. Shooting is an art form, something that can be forgotten in the pace-and-space era with how frequently players are encouraged to let it fly with the hopes of taking advantage of the fact that threes are more valuable than most twos. As such, when a player is good at hitting the kind of spectacular triples that Curry has made a hallmark of his game, they manage to stick out, even among the triple-heavy NBA. And if a player can use their ability to shoot as a way to set up shots at the rim, either for themselves or their teammates, that’d be even better.
With that in mind, here are a pair of videos of Trae Young from Tuesday night.
.@TheTraeYoung was on another PLANET last night, going for 42 points and dropping 11 dimes in our big win over the Nuggets
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) November 13, 2019
— NBA (@NBA) November 13, 2019
Young was incredible in Atlanta’s 125-121 win over the Nuggets in Denver, going for 42 points on 13-for-21 shooting from the field and 8-for-13 shooting from deep while pitching in 11 assists. It’s the latest performance in what has been a torrid start for Young this season, as the sophomore guard and reigning Rookie of the Year runner-up has managed to look like the version of himself that made scouts salivate during his All-American campaign during his only season at Oklahoma.
As a Sooner, Young showcased Curry-like abilities to impact games on the offensive end of the floor. The thing that made headlines was his quick trigger from three with limitless range — he connected on 36.1 percent of his attempts in Norman, but he famously hit a bit of a wall, hitting 32.8 percent of his triples in conference play as the Sooners stumbled to an 8-10 record in the Big 12. Seeing as how Young, who was listed at 6’2 and 180 pounds in college, led the nation in percentage of possessions used as a true freshman, that probably should not have come as a huge shock.
Young was still able to make his impact on games with his passing. For how much attention his shooting gets, Young does not get nearly enough credit for being one of the best passers of a basketball on earth. He led the nation in assist rate at Oklahoma, according to KenPom, and during his first year in the league, he finished third in this metric. Young’s passing makes opponents respect his shooting and vice versa, although he ran into a bit of an issue as a rookie: His shot wasn’t always falling.
While Young averaged 19.1 points per game during his first year in the league, he struggled to hit shots from downtown. His 32.4 percent clip from deep as a rookie was not particularly great, and it’s not like he turned into a supernova as he found his footing in the league — Young connected on 31.2 percent of his shots from downtown in 58 games before the All-Star break and hit 34.8 percent of his triples in Atlanta’s final 23 games of the year. He had an excellent February, knocking down a robust 43.7 percent of his threes, but otherwise, shots did not consistently fall.
In spite of all of this, Young averaged 19.1 points per game. Some problems require complex solutions, but others are far more simple. For Young, the thing standing between him and taking a leap stemmed from his ability to consistently hit shots. Seeing as how he’s good at this, it probably was smart to have anticipated he’d do this sooner rather than later.
Through nine games, Young has been a supernova from downtown. Young is hitting on 40.2 percent from deep per game and sits in sixth in the league in scoring, averaging a 28 points a night. The Hawks, wisely, understand that Young letting it fly is smart, and as such, his 9.1 attempts from three every night is the fifth-most in the league. And as basketball-reference.com points out, Young’s big start to the years stems from, quite simply, shooting threes more frequently and hitting them.
Even more exciting has been Young’s passing. Only Derrick Rose and LeBron James boast higher assist percentages than Young, who’s sitting at a 47.1 percent on the year, while his 8.7 assists per game are good for fourth-best in the NBA. It certainly helps that Atlanta is basically putting the ball in his hands and letting him get to work — Young is being used as a pick-and-roll ball-handler on 15.3 possessions a game, the most in the league, per NBA.com. Oh, and in the most delightful sign that Atlanta is The Trae Young Show, the ex-Sooner is taking at least three dribbles on 68.7(!) percent of his attempts from the field, with 43(!!!) percent of his field goal attempts coming after seven or more dribbles.
Basically, the Hawks have given Young the keys to the car and he’s responded by having it go faster than ever before. Keeping it up is the big thing, because it would put him in an excellent position to make an All-Star team for the first time in his young career, and making sure these numbers aren’t for empty calories for a squad that misses the postseason would be awfully nice. But on a much larger scale, Young is showing us that when executed at its best, the Steph Curry-fication of basketball can be a wonderful thing.