Mavericks star Luka Doncic is still the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but Trae Young, his draft-day trade-mate, has quickly closed the gap.
While the Dallas guard exploded out of the gate to start the season, Atlanta’s youngster struggled with turnovers and making plays against quality defenders.
But when the calendar turned to 2019, Young began to shine, thrusting himself into the conversation for the league’s top rookie.
Here are their respective splits from the first two months of the season.
|Player||Points||FG %||3-pt. %||Assists||Turnovers||Rebounds||Basketball-Reference Game Score|
|Luka Doncic (20 games)||18.5||44.3||38.2||4.3||3.8||6.5||12.6|
|Trae Young (23 games)||15.6||37.8||24.8||7.6||3.8||3.0||10.3|
During that two-month stretch, the Mavericks went 10-10 with Doncic on the floor while Young’s Hawks sported a 5-18 mark, furthering the notion that Doncic was the superior player.
Instantly, Atlanta’s draft-day trade was being hailed as a bad move by most analysts and fans.
Young had become an afterthought while Doncic was widely (and rightfully) viewed as a star in the making. Young picked up the label as a streaky player who didn’t defend and looked like he wouldn’t live up to his draft position.
But Young’s strong 2019 has started to shift that narrative.
|2019 Splits (as of March 4)||Points||FG %||3-pt. %||Assists||Turnovers||Rebounds||Basketball-Reference Game Score|
|Luka Doncic (23 games)||23.1||43.4||31.9||6.5||3.3||8.4||17.5|
|Trae Young (28 games)||21.8||43.8||40.0||8.3||3.9||4.0||16.6|
In those 23 games with Doncic, Dallas went 10-13. With Young leading the way in 2019, Atlanta is 11-17.
To no one’s surprise, the advanced data for 2019 gives Young the edge.
|2019 Advanced Splits (as of March 4)||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Assist %||Turnover %||Usage Rate|
|Luka Doncic (23 games)||109||109||37.2||13.4||33.3|
|Trae Young (28 games)||115||119||40.3||17.1||28.6|
Young might never be a good defender, but he’s clearly found his offensive groove as his offensive rating and assist percentage are through the roof despite a lower usage rate.
He’ll need to cut down on some turnovers, but the Hawks have to be giddy about Young’s development.
Looking at Doncic’s season to date, he’s showcased his talent on a consistent basis, but his improvement has been far more modest. There are several reasons for this.
Not only has he missed multiple games, but he saw most of his teammates get traded. On top of that, All-Star Kristaps Porzingis — the centerpiece of Dallas’ blockbuster trade — likely won’t take the court this season.
Even with that adversity, impact metrics still favor Doncic, although Young’s recent tear has minimized that difference.
|On/Off Splits||Team Offensive Rating On||Team Offensive Rating Off||Team Defensive Rating On||Team Defensive Rating Off|
If Young keeps up his hot play for the rest of the season and Doncic cools off, NBA Rookie of the Year Award voters might be more split than people realize.
But that just proves that both organizations should be happy with their draft-day decision — although the Hawks are definitely feeling much better now than they did earlier in the season.
And they’ll feel even better if their rookie edges out Doncic in a tight Rookie of the Year race come this summer.