Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks are three wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals. If you told any NBA fan that, even the most avid ATL supporter, they’d laugh you out of the room.
A trip the the second round? Maybe. After all, the Hawks and the New York Knicks were considered to be around the same tier of team during the regular season. Though Most Improved Player Julius Randle tormented the Hawks during their matchups and had home-court advantage, it still wasn’t too much of a long-shot.
But the Philadelphia 76ers were supposed to blow them out of the water. The Eastern Conference was considered a three-team race between the Sixers, Brooklyn Nets, and Milwaukee Bucks. The fact that the Sixers played the Hawks in the second round was the reason many expected Philly to come out of the East. While the Nets and Bucks pummel each other in their series, which they did, the Sixers would have a cakewalk of a time dismantling an inexperienced Hawks team. Fast forward to the Conference Finals and suddenly Trae Young is shimmying his way to a Game 1 win over Giannis Antetokounmpo.
TRAE YOUNG IS SO DISRESPECTFUL 💀
He hits the shimmy before taking a 3 pic.twitter.com/kZHiUOTTnq
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 24, 2021
The Atlanta Hawks are way ahead of schedule and it starts with Trae Young. The budding superstar is nearing legendary status in Georgia in just his third NBA season. But it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows for Ice Trae, especially since he came to the city as a result of a draft day trade with the Dallas Mavericks for Luka Doncic.
Many called the Hawks trade arguably one of the biggest blunders in NBA history. With Doncic looking like he’s on a direct path to the Hall of Fame, showing flashes of talent to potentially become one of the greatest players of all time, it’s not hard to see why. While Doncic became an MVP candidate in his second season and made some serious noise during his first postseason appearance back in 2019-20, Trae Young’s Hawks floundered towards the bottom of the standings with another trip to the lottery in tow.
Young spoke out on the never-ending Luka Doncic juxtaposition during a 2019 interview with ESPN’s Royce Young. The Hawks star was asked how he felt about the early success from the man he was swapped for in Dallas and if he felt the need to prove that Atlanta made the right decision.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of motivation there,” said the Hawks guard back in 2019. “I have a lot of different thoughts and motivations, so that’s a little bit of it. I think both teams did what’s best for them. I think what we have going on: the rebuilding process, getting a lot of young guys and trying to build that way, build this city up, build the culture we have. It’s great, it’s growing. We have a lot of fans here that are supporting us.
Obviously in Dallas, they’re more in a win-now situation: going and getting all those free agents, getting Kristaps [Porzingis], Tim [Hardaway Jr.], Seth [Curry], They got a lot of guys that are veterans in this league. Two totally different situations.”
But after another first-round playoff exit for Luka Doncic and the Mavs, it’s Trae Young and the Hawks who are left standing. The Hawks have now hold home-court advantage over the Bucks and have just as good a chance as any of the teams left at winning it all. This raises the question: Do the Hawks suddenly win the Luka Doncic for Trae Young trade if they win the 2021 NBA championship? The answer is yes.
Why the Hawks win the Trae Young for Luka Doncic trade
First of all, if the Hawks win it all this season, there can be no more Trae Young slander for the rest of eternity. Even if Luka Doncic becomes the greatest player the league has ever seen, Trae still would have a title to his name and to the city that
drafted traded for him. That’s something that can never be erased.
But winning the trade entirely is a totally different story. While some point to the fact that the Hawks might have just traded away the league’s heir apparent to LeBron James, the former number one overall pick offers the exact example of why the Hawks would be sitting pretty with a titled Trae over Doncic.
What’s transpiring this year, especially if the Hawks win the title, is reminiscent of how the 2003 NBA draft shook out as well. Although LeBron, just like Luka, looked every bit the part of the once-in-a-generation superstar that he was billed to be at that point, it wasn’t the kid from Akron who won his first ring right away. Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, just like Trae is trying to do, shocked the world during his third season with a run all the way to the NBA Finals, even before his more fabled counterpart.
People forget that we’re not just comparing Luka Doncic to LeBron James straight up. In discussing who wins the trade, we should be comparing the Dallas Mavericks to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs failed to build a solid enough team around LeBron James to help him contend for a title. After five failed postseason attempts, King James left Cleveland.
We’re seeing a similar theme shake out thus far with Luka Doncic. Despite superhuman playoff displays, his supporting cast hasn’t carried enough weight to get his team over the hump. Now there’s already buzz surrounding Luka Doncic’s long-term future with the franchise. The difference here between James and Doncic is that LeBron had reason to return to Cleveland, given that he had promised a ring to his hometown. Has Doncic built enough fealty to Dallas that he would do the same if he ever decided to leave? Probably not.
Dwyane Wade meanwhile became the Heat’s greatest player of all time. That one ring early on in his career cemented his legacy even before entering his prime, a fate Trae Young would experience should he do the same for the Hawks. Bringing a championship to a title-starved franchise turns Young into their most important player ever. Tough to argue against a ring, after all. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade weren’t traded for one another, but the Heat clearly won in that hypothetical scenario. The Hawks are hoping for that exact same energy.
Of course, Luka Doncic could very well stay with the Mavs for the rest of his career, winning multiple titles and fulfilling his vast potential. But in this era of player empowerment, keeping your ringless star content is a near-impossible task with just one victor every season. We’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out. But if history has shown us anything, it’s that the Hawks are golden once they win a ring with Trae Young.