Photo Credit: Slam
The Rookie of the Year battle between Slovenian superstar Luka Dončić and Oklahoma Sooner Trae Young is closer than you think.
The whole year has seemed like a no-brainer that Luka was going to run away with the ROY, but Young has absolutely gone off in the second half of the year. Although I would probably still take Luka, let’s examine the stats and facts here.
Luka: 21.2 PTS, 0.3 BLK, 1.1 STL, 6 AST, 7.8 REB, .427FG%, .327 3P%, 32.2 MP, and 72 GP
Young: 19.1 PTS, 0.2 BLK, 0.9 STL, 8 AST, 3.7 REB, .419FG%, .326 3P%, 30.9 MP, and 80 GP
This is extremely interesting because the Hawks traded Luka for Young and a protected 2019 first round pick. They will be tied together for the rest of their careers. As stated earlier, this seemed like a landslide in Luka’s favor. However, since the All-Star break, Young has averaged 25.8 PTS, 9.0 AST, and 4.4 REB. According to Sports Illustrated’s Alla Abdeldaim, Young “became only the eighth rookie in league history to log at least 35 points and 11 assists in a game during the Hawks’ 133–111 win over the Cavaliers.” Young has also turned heads with a multitude of game winners and clutch shots. Luka had many plays like that earlier in the season but that and his overall play has slightly slowed down since the All-Star break.
Luka started off far better than Young and this award is for the whole season, not just the second half. That will probably be what trumps Young. Doncic shoots it better, his size makes him a far better defender, and turns the ball over less, with a margin of 247 to Young’s 302 on the year. If you are a basketball fan, I don’t need to lecture you on the greatness of the Slovenian crusader. He has been simply magnificent, putting up Michael Jordan numbers and blowing everyone’s expectations out of the water. Luka is also the 4th rookie ever to record at least 7 triple-doubles. With the hot start, Luka’s expectations went up substantially from where they originally were, making his slightly quieter half of the season almost a letdown. Maybe it will hurt Luka, maybe it won’t.
Young has had a historic offensive rookie season, recording 29 double-doubles. He is also the 3rd player to record 40 + PTS and 10 + AST in a game. The other two players who have accomplished that are LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Young also has been crazy efficient on drives and shooting in and around the paint, making him a true terror in transition. Luka’s claim to fame was his 3-pointer, but his percentage from beyond the arc has dropped abysmally in the second half of the season. Young’s passing has also become quite ridiculous as he is starting to look like a better playmaker. He has done this all in fewer games and minutes than Luka. If Young doesn’t win the award, that shouldn’t be a knock on how far he has come. If the Mavericks lose their protected pick, the Hawks may have come out smelling like roses in the trade. TraeTL has fully embraced the Atlanta identity.
If we are being honest, the award is heavily leaning towards Luka, but I think Young deserves a lot of credit and somewhat of a debate. They do play in different offenses and positions. Many NBA stars like Blake Griffin and Jimmy Butler have actually stated Young should be Rookie of the Year. We will see how the last day of the NBA plays out and who knows, maybe Young can close out the season with a signature game, adding to his résumé.
To say the least, it has been a fun season and race altogether.