By this time, most every Sooner fan knows that Oklahoma basketball star Trae Young is headed to Georgia to begin his professional career with the NBA Atlanta Hawks.
Young’s night at the NBA Draft on Thursday actually began with him going No. 5 overall to the Dallas Mavericks, who then traded the pick, along with a top-five protected first-round pick in next year’s draft, to Atlanta in return for the Hawks’ No. 3 overall pick, Luka Doncic, who some analysts rated as the best player in the draft.
So Young, who was the most talked about player in college basketball for much of his freshman season at Oklahoma — and surprised just about everyone but perhaps OU coach Lon Kruger by leading the nation in both scoring and assists in his one and only college season — is trading the crimson color of the Sooners for another shade of red, the torch red color of the NBA Hawks.
Ahead of Thursday night’s NBA Draft at the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, multiple NBA analysts and team personnel were calling Young the player with the highest upside potential of the prospects available in the draft, but also the player with the highest risk to be a draft bust.
You can attribute the wide differential of Young’s risk-reward assessment to his eye-popping beginning in the first half of the 2017-18 college season and how his numbers and performance tailed off through a good part of the second half.
Atlanta ended this past NBA season with a 24-58 record, the worst team in the Eastern Conference and the third worst record in the entire league. This coming after three consecutive winning seasons. Just three years ago, in 2014-15, the Hawks finished the regular season with 60 wins and the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Dennis Schroder, who just completed his fifth NBA season, all with Atlanta, was the Hawks leading scorer in 2017-18, averaging 19.4 points a game. he also led the team with 6.2 assists per game.
Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk said prior to the draft that he was looking for skilled players who could both shoot and pass the ball. Young certainly fits that criteria.
Throughout his one-and-done season at Oklahoma, Young’s style of play and shooting range was most often compared to three-time NBA champion and two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry. It is probably not a coincidence that Schlenk, a former executive with the Golden State Warriors, would be willing to roll the dice, giving up another high-potential prospect, Doncic, to get Young.
There is another connection between Oklahoma basketball and the Atlanta Hawks. Lon Kruger coached the Hawks for two-plus seasons, from 2000-02, in his only foray into the NBA.
For a brief while it appeared that Kansas point guard and fellow Big 12 point guard Devonte Graham and Young were going to be united in Atlanta, but that quickly dissipated when Graham was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in return for two future second-round picks. The Hornets traded up to get Graham in the second round with the 34th overall pick.
It would have been nice and convenient had Young landed in Dallas, which would have put him close to home, but the former OU superstar appears delighted to be going to Atlanta.
He told reporters, after learning about the trade with the Mavericks, that “it feels a lot like going to, picking Oklahoma — a team who’s looking to rebuild, who’s really talented, a really talented team, but who I feel is one or two pieces away from being special.”
Young feels confident that he is the player to help lead the turnaround in Atlanta. And that is what Atlanta GM Schlenk and the Hawk fans are betting on, a well.