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Is the Hawks’ Trae Younger the NBA’s latest coach killer?

Picture: Getty Photographs

When a degree guard averages 27 factors and 10 assists, you have to be speaking about probably the greatest within the recreation. Trae Young is that dude. He has solidified himself as one of the vital deadly scorers within the NBA. He is named a shooter, with some going so far as evaluating him to Steph Curry. Everyone knows he can rating, however Younger’s perimeter taking pictures prowess is overrated, as he’s solely a 35 % shooter from three from his profession and is at present on observe for a 32 % taking pictures share this season.

That being mentioned, to depart him open is to ask hazard, particularly on the finish of video games. Younger can rating on all three ranges. He’s probably the greatest guards within the NBA, interval.

Rigidity between Younger and head coach Nate McMillan

However, these days, there was a specter hanging over the Atlanta Hawks franchise, and it has to do with Younger’s future with the staff. The stress between Younger and head coach Nate McMillan has been properly chronicled. It’s been brewing for some time now. The Hawks at present sit at 24-23, a recreation over .500, a disappointment after including All-Star Dejounte Murray over the summer time. Murray and Younger have performed properly collectively, whereas counting on a my-turn/your-turn scheme on offense. For them to take the following step as a duo, Younger might want to learn to be simply as efficient off-ball whereas letting Murray cook dinner on-ball.

However including a triple-double menace in Murray hasn’t produced a greater on-court product in Atlanta. A minimum of not but, anyway. And far of the eye has been on Younger this season and his potential (or incapability) to make his teammates higher. The stress has bubbled to the floor this season, with Younger and McMillan’s relationship getting so dangerous the head coach considered retirement. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin went on the radio to shortly dispel the rumor McMillan would possibly depart, however afterward, McMillan himself hinted at retirement after this season.

However this isn’t Younger’s first run-in with a coach. Lloyd Pierce solely lasted three seasons in Atlanta and was fired after the staff began 14-20 within the 2020 – 2021 season. McMillan, on the time an assistant ready within the wings, took over and guided the Hawks to a 27-11 end. As soon as within the playoffs, they quickly dispatched the Knicks within the first spherical because the fifth seed, earlier than upsetting the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers within the second spherical and reaching the Jap Convention Finals for the primary time since 2014-15, the place they misplaced to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in six video games. Younger wasn’t the one one who took umbrage with Pierce’s teaching fashion. John Collins and Cam Reddish each complained about taking part in time and utilization. However the butting of heads between the staff’s coach and famous person in the end did Pierce in.

Whose side is the locker room on?

Pierce lost the locker room over time, with his schemes and rotations, rather than heated locker room shouting matches. Part of it was his public criticism of Young’s playing style, which involved a lot of baiting officials into garnering favorable calls. This style of play pressured the league to institute a rule change on foul calling, limiting Young’s effectiveness in this area. Young was one of the best at this, much to the chagrin of his coach, who routinely made an issue of it to the press. No matter how often the two met privately to try to get back on the same page, Pierce’s firing seemed inevitable.

At the time of Pierce’s dismissal, Young was only in his third season, and it was rare for a neophyte to have such power within the organization. That was only exaggerated when McMillan stepped in, and the Hawks reached the Conference Finals, making it apparent that choosing Young over Pierce was the right move. Reaching the Conference Finals will do that. But the season after, the Hawks were embarrassed in the first round by the Heat in five games. Young was especially dismal. After averaging 28.8 ppg in the prior year’s playoffs, he could only muster 15.4 ppg on absurdly bad shooting splits of 32/18/79. Yuck.

Where does Atlanta go from here?

But now that Young is beefing with McMillan too (so much that someone like Shams Charina is tweeting that he is considering retirement), the perception is changing around Young as a franchise cornerstone. There are obvious issues around his defense. And there is something to be said about a player considered one of the best shooters in the league, only hitting 35 percent of his shots in his career. But now that they’ve added another All-Star alongside him, the team not making any competitive advancement record-wise looks even worse. There’s a legitimate discourse to be had that Young does not make his teammates better. Just look at how Kevin Huerter has unlocked another side to his game since leaving Atlanta for Sacramento this summer.

That’s not taking anything away from Young’s ability to put the ball in the basket. He is one of the best in the game at that. But making your teammates better, augmenting your game for winning, and being a student of the game are all qualities of a superstar. Young is certainly one statistically, but reputation is a different story. If he can not repair the relationship with McMillan, a well-respected head coach for 19 seasons, Young will take on the infamous mantle of “coach killer.” It’s been a while since we’ve had one. LeBron James escaped the label early in his career when he learned to trust Erik Spoelstra in Miami after questioning if he was the proper coach to guide the Heatles.

If Younger doesn’t change his method with McMillan, he may very well be answerable for banishing two head coaches in 5 seasons. Everyone knows Younger can rating. However can he lead? And extra importantly, in relation to his coach, can he observe?

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