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What’s the next step for Hawks point guard Trae Young?

Trae Young, Hawks

Trae Young fell short of winning the 2018-19 NBA Rookie of the Year award, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve it. The Atlanta Hawks point guard had one of the best freshman campaigns of the last decade and he brought much-needed excitement back to the franchise.

His averages of 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists would have been good enough to win the award had it not been for the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic.  One of the league’s most dynamic and innovative players, Young is expected to elevate his game to another level in year two.

The last 31 games of the 2018-19 season should provide us with a preview of what his sophomore season could look like. In those contests, Young averaged 23.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 9.2 assists, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 36.0 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-2 playmaker is already good, but the next step for him is to become an All-Star next year.

In order to achieve All-Star status, the following will be Young’s to-do list this coming season:

3. Become a consistent 3-point threat

For the year, Young shot 32.4 percent from beyond the arc. If not for his strong finish in the latter half of last season, he would have had an atrocious 29.5 percent shooting percentage (in his first 50 games) from downtown.

He needs to prove that he can knock down those long-distance bombs consistently to keep defenses honest. This will open up the lane for his drives, giving teammates John Collins (19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds per game) and Alex Len (11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds) easy baskets in the painted area. It will also give these two more room to operate in the post.

2. Score 25 points per game

Defenses will be keying on him more now that teams know what to expect from the University of Oklahoma product. In year two of his NBA career, we should see him become one of the league’s top scorers, making his team a playoff contender in the process.

This might seem like too much pressure for Young, who will be 21 years old when training camp starts. But if his late-season surge is any indication, he is capable of taking over a game like the league’s elite players.

Young had a three-game stretch from late Feb. to Mar. 1 in which he scored 36, 36 and 49 points. In four of his last five games in March, he averaged 28.5 points per game on 45.1 percent field goal shooting. These games prove that the Hawks’ franchise player is capable of taking over a ballgame like the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

That comparison used to be scoffed at by some after Young fizzled out in his last few games in college. But after a wildly successful rookie year, those comparisons don’t seem so ridiculous anymore.

1. Take the assists title from Russell Westbrook

The Houston Rockets recently acquired Russell Westbrook, who will team with James Harden to form the best playmaking duo in the league. This should open the door for Young to come in and take the assists title from Westbrook.

His age notwithstanding, Young is the kind of player who can lead the league in assists next season. His one-and-done collegiate season provided us with a template of the kind of player he can be as a pro. He was the first player in college history to lead the NCAA in both points and assists in a single season with 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game averages.

During the aforementioned three games from Feb. to March, Young not only averaged 40.3 points, but he also dished the ball to his teammates 11.3 dimes a night. As for the previously stated four-game stretch, he shredded defenses for 10.3 assists an outing.

This shows that scoring seems to make Young an even better passer. With more opportunities for other players to score because of the attention paid on him, Young gets more open looks. Double-teaming him is useless when he’s on his game like in these contests.