Don't forget about the other summer blockbuster.
You can't go online without the Rudy Gobert trade being flamed.
It's hard not to question that move considering how clunky things
have looked for the Timberwolves on both ends, a recent winning
streak when Gobert was out of the lineup, and a slide coinciding
with Gobert's return — featuring closing minutes with Naz Reid
instead of Gobert.
You know who else has looked clunky on both ends of the floor?
The Atlanta Hawks, fresh off a loss to LeBirthday and the Los
Angles Lakers on Friday night.
The Hawks are currently sitting two games under .500 (17-19),
with a bottom-10 net rating (-1.7, 24th) and more rumors swirling
than a high-school hallway. The latter portion — the outside noise
— is really what sucks about this Hawks season.
It's understandable enough that there would be growing pains
when implenting former Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray into the mix.
I was ultimately high on the move, but the
Young-Murray fit hasn't been clean. The Hawks are barely winning the minutes —
plus-1.8 in 695 minutes — with them sharing the floor.
It's even tougher considering the injury woes the Hawks have
dealt with. Clint Capela has missed nine games; John Collins and
De'Andre Hunter have missed eight. Bogdan Bogdanovic, an important
spacer and secondary creator, made his season debut on
In a perfect world, this is just a matter of on-court chemistry
building. But alas, it doesn't appear to be just that. The cloud
surrounding the relationship between Young and head coach Nate
McMillan is hard to ignore at this point.
Before the season, Young and McMillan each referenced their need
to improve communication with each other. McMillan took steps over
the offseason with an in-house visit, for a
quick example. Naturally, Young missed a home game against the
Denver Nuggets earlier this month due to [checks notes] morning shootaround
(As the story goes, Young wanted to bypass morning shootaround
to receive extra treatment for a troublesome shoulder. McMillan
gave Young a choice: either come off the bench [for missing a
normally-mandatory shootaround], or stay home. Young opted for the
That's a petty story at best, another notch on the
"what-the-heck's-going-on-with-those-two?" belt at worst. It didn't
look good for Young, who simply could've played if he wanted to. It
didn't look good for McMillan, who wouldn't have lost sleep over
letting Young slide considering the circumstances — and his
importance to the team, but you know.
Fast forward to Friday, before the Lakers loss, and we get a
report from The Athletic's Shams Charania that McMillan has
considered resigning from the
job. When asked about the report, McMillan didn't necessarily
shut things down:
"I read that article briefly, I've never spoke to that reporter
before," McMillan said. "I think the last
two weeks, he's written a couple articles with some sources in our
organization that are making some comments about me, and some
things that I'm saying and doing. Look, at the end of the year,
I'll do as I've always done, at the end of the season I talk with
my family and see if I still have that flame, that fire to continue
next season. That's the end of the season. All of us think about
retiring, but that's at the end of the season. So we'll move on
What makes this dynamic — and the Hawks in general — so
difficult to parse through is the chicken-or-egg nature of
For the "star > coach" crowd, there are arguments to
There is a level of rigidity with McMillan from a scheme
perspective. That isn't inherently bad; he provides structure, and
that appeal is what helped land him the job after the Hawks fired
Lloyd Pierce in the first place. But it's part of why teams have
been willing to move on from McMillan after a spell, looking for a
new voice or a boost in creativity. The Hawks very well could use
On the flip side, how much more can be done with this personnel?
That's worth asking before factoring in the injury woes.
Daryl Morey would throw up at the Hawks' shot profile: 37.5% of
their shots come from the mid-range area (1st), while they lag way
behind in rim (32%, 20th) and three-point rate (30.5%, 29th). But
when your shooting talent underperforms (Collins, Hunter, Justin
Holiday), is mostly unavailable (Bogdanovic) or trying to learn the
ropes in year one (AJ Griffin), what should the expectation be?
McMillan, like virtually every coach in existence, has had his
rotations questioned during his tenure. But with the revolving door
of talent he's had at his disposal this season, what should the
And then there's Young himself.
He's underperformed by his lofty standards. Averages of 27.4
points and 9.9 assists are dope; averaging career-lows from just
about everywhere — 31% on 7.2 threes, 47% on 13.8 two-pointers — is
admittedly not dope.
He hasn't been able to can the pull-up threes that make him such
a lethal pick-and-roll threat. His floater, one of the NBA's best
weapons, has largely failed him this season. (Ja Morant's dealing
with a similar floater issue, hence his career-low in two-point
Young missing shots wouldn't be as tough if his play-style
didn't exacerbate things. He dictates a ton of the action — and
rightfully so, with his blend of playmaking and scoring chops.
After leading the NBA in seconds per
touch and dribbles per touch last season, Young ranks... second and
first respectively this season.
After an encouraging start to the year, the off-ball juice just
hasn't been there for Young. We're back to pass-and-stand with the
ball out of his hands. He's taken just 23 relocation threes this
season, per Second Spectrum; that's on pace to smash last season's
number (26), but still well below the threshold you'd like to see
The primary reason that people questioned the Young-Murray fit
was because of the off-ball woes. Murray was a fine-not-threatening
catch-and-shoot threat, while Young just wasn't particularly
engaged in that area. Sadly, it's been mostly a "my turn, your
turn" ordeal between the two.
It's fair to question if McMillan can bring this team to the
next level, and if he can connect with Young enough to make that
possibility a reality. It's also fair to question how much of a
limiter Young's style is to building the sort of multi-faceted
attack that can take the Hawks to the next level.
That question, in addition to the weird relationship with
McMillan, is why executives have started chirping
about the possibility of Young eventually asking out.
This is where I pause and state the obvious: executives saying
"hey, he might be the next star to ask out" is not a
report. It's notable conversation, and fun to think about. It's not
an actual trade request.
Even with that context, it's interesting to think about what a
Young trade would even look like. The Hawks pushing that button
would signify, "We can't do this," "We don't want to deal with
this," or a combination of the two. How would that message be
Young is an offense unto himself; that's incredibly valuable
and, oddly enough, part of the problem with building around him.
Add in the defensive concerns — he's a small dude whose attention
span wanes off the ball too often — and a Young trade sweepstakes
won't be as simple as "this dude's good so we should sell the farm
Go down the line of fake trade destinations, and you'll come
across some roadblocks.
That Young-for-KAT swap seems plausible until you think about
Young, Anthony Edwards and Gobert in the same locker room. Gobert
was frustrated enough being blamed for Utah's defensive miscues;
cleaning up for Young and Edwards' off-ball lapses
feels like trouble waiting to happen.
The New York Knicks should be happy with the All-Star caliber
play that Jalen Brunson has provided this season. Brunson isn't a
Young-level talent, nor is he a Young-level star. I'd be shocked if
they didn't at least consider constructing a package for Young.
In light of Chris Paul's decline, I'm sure the Phoenix Suns
would sniff around. The prospect of pairing Young and Devin Booker
together would be interesting, though building out an offer would
(I don't know if anyone wants to hear this, but there's
probably a conversation to be had between Atlanta and
Philadelphia depending on what James Harden wants to do with his
For a player as talented as Young, that's not a long list of
suitors. And again, you could poke holes in all of those. Ideally,
this doesn't become a real talking point to begin with. The Hawks
want Young to be the face of the franchise, and he's already shown
he's talented enough to lead them on a deep playoff run.
What needs to change for the Hawks to turn things around? The
anwer is a little bit of everything.
More malleability from McMillan would be nice. A healthier
roster — and better shooting talent — would give McMillan more room
to experiment. Obviously there's no "shoot-the-ball-better" button
to press, but Young can control his own engagement level off the
ball — on both ends of the floor.