Young is usually a wizard on offense, extremely confident and capable when it comes to shooting from near the logo or driving to the rim and drawing contact, with an elite floater game to boot. He was an All-Star starter in Year 2, fourth in the league in scoring (29.6 points per game) and second in assists (9.3). He’s looked off-kilter shooting from 3-point range the past three games, and is shooting 33.3% from the field over the past five games (averaging 15 points, 5.8 field goals made on 17.4 attempts per game).
He has only made one 3-pointer over the past three games, going 1 for 6 from 3 in the Hawks’ 113-108 loss Jan. 4 to the Knicks; 0 for 3 in a 102-94 loss Jan. 6 to the Hornets; and 0 for 5 in the Jan. 9 rematch in Charlotte — a 113-105 loss. Through the Hawks’ first four games, Young averaged 33 points, shooting 34.8% from 3 (still below the 36.1% he finished at last year) and 50.7% from the field.
His struggles have corresponded with the Hawks’ four-game losing streak, over which they’re shooting 28.65% from distance. The team finished last in the league in 3-point shooting last year at 33.3%.
But, Young isn’t too worried about it, and trusts that he’ll find a rhythm again soon. Both Young and the Hawks will have the chance to right the ship Monday night as they host the Sixers.
“It’s just getting back to the basics,” Young said. “I haven’t hit a 3 in a couple games and that’s just something that I’ve got to get back to doing. I’ve gone a couple games before where I haven’t shot the ball really well and it’s all about just never getting too high and never getting too low.
“I’m obviously still trying to continue to do that myself. Whenever shots aren’t going, I understand the work I put in and I know it’s going to pay off. So I’m not too worried about my shots or shots not going in.”
It’s probably a combination of teams zeroing in on Young, per Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, and Young going through what all shooters deal with from time to time. It’s also not just Young who’s struggling. The Hawks — who last year ranked 23rd in the league, shooting 44.9% from the field — as a team have shot 40.5% over the past four games.
Particularly against the Hornets, the Hawks had plenty of open shots. They were just off-target. So they need to focus on what they can control, like defense, and generate more easy scoring opportunities at the rim if their 3-point shot isn’t falling.
“I think teams have zeroed in on him, and they’re switching a lot, so there’s not a lot of separation,” Pierce said. “I think all of our guys have found some ruts in their shooting and we’ve hit a really low patch over the last couple games, just shooting the basketball. I think it’s kind of both. We’re not making shots, teams are doing what they can to make it difficult.
“We’ve missed open shots at a high rate, and I think it gets into your psyche a little bit, so it’s a great day to come back in the gym and work and (if) we clean that up it’s a different feeling. More than anything we need to get a better feeling right now in regards to shooting the basketball. Sometimes it’s just shifting your thoughts, shifting your thoughts to how can we defend a little bit better, how can we rebound a little bit better, how can we create something easy. But he hasn’t shot it well, and a lot of our guys haven’t, as well, as a team.”
In the Hawks’ most recent loss, Young banged up his right wrist. He said he took X-rays after the game and, while not severe, it is definitely painful.
Pierce said that Young was wearing a brace on his wrist during Sunday’s practice, and that Young was still sore but “seems to be all right.” The Hawks didn’t practice with contact and weren’t trying to test the wrist.
Aside from issues potentially stemming from Young’s wrist injury, Pierce isn’t concerned that more shots will start falling for Young, which of course boosts the Hawks as a whole. It also helps that Young typically excels at getting to the free-throw line, creating an easy scoring opportunity so he can see the ball go in the basket and get himself going.
Young was averaging an unreal 15.5 free-throw attempts per game through the first four games, but dropped to 6.2 over the last five. He is tied with Giannis Antetokounmpo in attempts at 10.3 per game. Young leads the league with 9.1 free throws made per game. Even when Young struggled from 3 in the loss to the Knicks, he finished with 31 points because he got to the line, making 12 of 15 free throws.
“Wrist aside, I wouldn’t be worried,” Pierce said. “To me, the guy has proven he can score, and he can score quickly and he can score in bunches. I think the wrist may add a different element, hopefully he feels good. It sounds as if he’s just a little sore. But in any normal situation, I trust that Trae will be fine. And for him, his game helps him get back to it because he can get to the free-throw line at a high rate and see the basketball go in in that way, and that’s always, when you’re struggling, that’s always the easiest.
“Go get a layup, go get some free throws and now you’re not holding onto (it).The way basketball works, if you’re struggling to shoot, guess who’s going to end up with a lot of open shots? It’s that guy. So for him, if he can get to the free-throw line and create some opportunities where he sees the ball go in the basket, I think he’ll be fine.”