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Ranking Trae Young’s best passes of the season

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) races upcourt during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) races upcourt during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

When a player ranks second in the NBA in assists (9.3 per game), it turns out parsing through all his passes and trying to rank the best of the best is quite the task.

So, this list of Trae Young’s best passes of the 2019-20 season needs a caveat: There are too many highlights to list, so a few stellar ones have been left off. Also, because of the coronavirus, the season was suspended March 11, and since the Hawks (20-47) were one of eight teams excluded from plans to resume play in Orlando, their season was cut short by 15 games.

Still, in those 67 games, standout passes from Young, who is 21, were a common occurrence. He notched a double-double (10 points, game-high 10 assists) in the All-Star game and though he's an elite scorer as well (fourth in the league with 29.6 points per game), passing may be what he's best at. Let's dive in:

Honorable mention No. 1: For the most part, I decided not to include Young's best nutmegs on this list (had to draw a line somewhere, so I disqualified passes from himself to himself). But the instance where he freed up the lane and tricked both Denver's Monte Morris and Michael Porter by feigning a behind-the-back pass, only to dribble between his own legs and finish with an easy layup was too good, and unique, not to list it here.

Honorable mention No. 2: When Young participated in the All-Star game in Chicago, Team Giannis teammate Rudy Gobert said he was surprised at how easily Young could see him and connect with him on the court. This next pass isn't the flashiest, but it's an example of what Young does best, so I wanted to include it. In the second quarter of a loss to the Celtics on Feb. 3, as defenders collapse on Young as he's dribbling baseline (he frequently draws double teams), he spotted a cutting Kevin Huerter out of the corner of his eye and fed it to him for an easy layup.

No. 5: Kind of awkward, since Jabari Parker couldn't score after this sequence. But, in the third quarter of the Hawks' 121-109 loss to the Kings on Nov. 8, Young ran to catch a tipped pass and took one step to plant his feet before delivering a no-look, behind the back pass between two defenders to Parker. I'm combining fifth place with another filthy pass by Young to Parker, but one Parker successfully finished, when Young dished a behind-the-back pass for a layup against the Timberwolves on Nov. 25.

No. 4: In a win vs. Phoenix on Jan. 14, the Hawks had a seven-point lead with about a minute to play, and Young received a pass at halfcourt with nine seconds left on the shot clock. He didn't even dribble the ball, just picked his head up and, with two defenders on him, found an open DeAndre' Bembry under the net. Bembry finished with a reverse slam. Young's vision is one of his better assets and has helped him quickly develop into a top playmaker in the league.

No. 3: With John Collins suspended for 25 games, Young and Collins didn't connect on as many lobs as you'd expect. But, when they did, it was impressive stuff. In a double overtime win vs. the Hornets on March 9 (which turned out to be the Hawks' penultimate game of the season), Young was running left,  but managed to throw a no-look alley-oop across his body to Collins.

No. 2: The 76ers decided to bring the pressure on Young in their Oct. 28 win vs. the Hawks, putting two defenders on him immediately after the inbounds pass to prevent him from bringing the ball up the court. That didn't do much to stop him, though, as he lofted a baseball pass almost the full length of the court to Alex Len for an easy dunk.

No. 1: Up for debate on this one — whether the pass or what came before the pass is the best part. In a close win vs. the Spurs on Nov. 5, Young put LaMarcus Aldridge on skates, faking the center out twice before blowing past him and off the dribble hitting a cutting DeAndre' Bembry in stride. Bembry finished with a monster dunk, giving the Hawks a crucial five-point lead with about five minutes to go.