Positionless play has become more commonplace in basketball over the last 10 years. In that, the small guard has found a place as more than scorers and defenders. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors came along and turned that style of play into championship basketball. Since then NBA teams have been unafraid to invest in and, in some cases, stake their future on the small guard.
The Trae Young project at the University Oklahoma and for Atlanta Hawks has proven fruitful thus far. Talking with coaches, I harped on his size, believing that he was too small to be effective at either level of play. I didn’t think that he would be able to see the floor, outside of hoisting up jump shots from range. Up to this point I’ve been wrong. Young has figured out a couple of the strategies to be effective as a basketball player that would help any small guard who wants to dominate without being selfish. Here are the keys to his success:
- Young’s most effective attribute is his ability to shoot the basketball. At his size, he’s developed the ability to shoot the ball from range. Shooting from range gives him the space he needs to get his shot off against bigger defenders. It spaces the floor so that defenders can’t help. He and Steph Curry also have the rare ability to get the shot off quick without rushing, or changing their natural stroke. Somewhere early in his development, he was allowed to shoot the ball deep beyond the three point line. Often this shot is thought to be a bad or low percentage (sometimes times is) but he’s mastered it as well as anyone in the history of the game of basketball.
- His ability to finish at the basket is as good as any small guard in the NBA. He can shoot the floater and play the glass. He knows how to get his body into defenders and take away their ability to block his shot. As stated above, defenders have to stay close to him because of the threat of him shooting as he crosses half court. He can always get a step on the defender.
- In the middle pick and roll, he’s almost unstoppable. He’s patient, doesn’t force the action and creates fouls by initiating contact with defenders on his way to the basket. You can go to Youtube and watch how he plays pick up basketball. Game after game, he’s working on making the right decision in pick and roll situations during the offseason.
- Young is an extraordinary passer. His court vision, especially at that size is uncanny. Most players don’t realize that being a capable passer is almost as important as shooting the basketball. Being willing to pass the ball keeps defenders honest by forcing them to stay glued to the person they are guarding. In my experience, most smaller guards are not great passers, mainly due to not being able see over and around bigger players. Other smaller guards play with a chip on their shoulders and want to prove that they can score while being the smallest person on the court. Young seems to be past that.
- Young’s training works in junction with what he does in the game. Often players want to use everything they’ve worked on individually in the game. Typically that doesn’t work. Coaches ask players to play a role. That role may be limited, i.e. catch and shoot or defending. With that being said, training should match what the player is being asked to due in the game. Young trains on exactly what he does in the game and is comfortable with who he is as a player. He’s not perfect but he never plays outside of himself or the role that he’s asked to play. The irony is that he’s asked to carry his team offensively, which is a huge role with a lot of responsibility at that level.
” Young’s most effective attribute is his ability to shoot the basketball. At his size, he’s developed the ability to shoot the ball from range.”
The city of Atlanta has not had a talent like Young since since Dominique Wilkins in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not sure how good the Atlanta Hawks will ultimately be or if Trae Young will turn into a perennial All-Star. What he has demonstrated is that smaller guards can play at every level without being limited to being a specialist.