“I’m more comfortable. I know what to expect more going into games,” Young said. “I feel like it’s showtime every night.”
The logo is uncharted territory for all but a few daring shooters. Young has been working on his deep ball since grade school, and now he’s using it to stretch opposing defenses to their breaking points. He’s already made the same amount of 3s from 35 to 39 feet this season (two) as he did all of last season, and he’s currently on pace to take 128 shots from beyond 30 feet, which would be 57 more than he took in 2018-19.
But not every shot can be a 3, and for a player like Young, whose size disadvantage is all but eliminated behind the arc, the midrange is where things can get chaotic. While that space on the court is often maligned from an analytics perspective, Young knew that improving in that area would be essential for his growth in Year 2. So for four weeks this past offseason, he and his trainer Alex Bazzell hunkered down at a high school gym in the San Fernando Valley and prioritized the midrange. Fifty percent of their workouts focused on pull-ups, floaters, and fadeaways from that part of the floor, while the other 50 percent was split between 3-pointers and finishing at the rim.
“The midrange shot is completely different from your 3-point shot,” Bazzell said. “In the midrange, you have to be able to raise up and shoot at the top of your jump, otherwise it’s going to be hard to get it over those defenders. Especially for Trae—he’s coming off a lot of ball screens, and they put a lot of longer, taller defenders on him.”
To help Young maximize his effectiveness in midrange situations, Bazzell sent him clips of Clippers guard Lou Williams—a known midrange maestro—to study over the summer. Williams is an expert at using his body and his dribble to create space, and given that Young runs some of the same actions with the Hawks as Williams does with the Clippers, Bazzell wanted Young to duplicate the balance and high arc Williams maintains on his shot while fading away from defenders.
So far, those tactics have been paying dividends. From 10 feet out to the 3-point line, Young is shooting more than 5 percentage points better this season than he did his rookie year. And for a player who already has a top-five usage rate in the league (33.4), any kind of improvement in efficiency goes a long way.
Young’s foundation as a play-maker—from shooting to passing to finishing at the rim—is already so advanced that his teammates trust him to lead their efforts on the floor.
”For him it’s always more about learning about personnel and what the teams throw at him,” Hawks teammate Alex Len said. “When he sees the trap coming, he splits it or gets around his player so quick and then makes a decision, whether it’s to score, or going to be the big on the roll or the long pass—he reads it so quick. There’s only a few players who can do it like that—Rubio, LeBron—players who have that level of vision.”