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Trae Young is the next James Harden

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The phenomenal point guard has all the makings of an MVP

Houston Rockets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Jasear Thompson/NBAE via Getty Images

Watching Trae Young one thought kept going through my head — is it just me or does Trae Young look like a little old man? I mean, it’s like one of those movie where Trae and George Burns trade identities and all of a sudden the guy from Oh, God! has mad skills.

Anyway, watching Trae Young run circles around the Spurs last night elicited an old, familiar feeling. The former Oklahoma standout has all the makings of an MVP. In fact, he brings to mind a younger James Harden.

From a Spurs perspective, one has to respect and simultaneously despise what Harden’s Rockets did against the Spurs. And make no mistake, it was Harden’s Rockets. He was the star, the focus, the playmaker, the center of attention, and the one around whom that the franchise went about building their team.

His cutting to the basket, drawing the attention that left wide-open wings at the three-point line married with his insane ability to draw fouls served as a total maddening experience for the opposing viewer. James could create for himself, for others, and run the entire game. Even when the Spurs knew what play was coming, defending it was an entire different beast.

Trae Young has a very similar skill set, controlling the game, instilling his will all over the court. His quickness and agility make him impossible to guard and improve the opportunities for everyone sharing the court with him. And he has a floater that just seems to land every time. The way he took over the overtime sessions was just remarkable.

And like Harden, the Atlanta Hawks are doing their best to build the franchise around Young. In last night games, all of the his teammates were recognizable from their previous teams. Tony Snell (on his fourth team), Solomon Hill (fifth NBA team), Bogdon Bogdonovic (Sacramento Kings), Clint Capela (familiar from those Harden Rockets years) all start along with Young. The Hawks backcourt is stacked with seasoned players in hopes of elevating the Hawks back to their Mike Budenholzer contender status.

The issue that persisted with Harden is also at risk of infecting the Hawks — a young, athletic superstar is at the precipice of his potential. The NBA is a rollercoaster and the ride is not long. Young is putting miles on fast. If he becomes unhappy with a player, the odds are that man will be gone.

How far does Atlanta go to try an build a real deep playoff run with Trae Young at the helm? Will they, like Houston, go chasing the Larry O’Brien by bringing in aging, once great stars (like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook) to supplement solid role players who cannot lead (P. J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, and oh, there’s Capela again)?

Any injury to Young would lead to a Hawks team in a downward spiral for the exact amount of time he is unable to suit up.

And ultimately, if Atlanta is unable to cobble together a championship roster, will Trae Young become discontent and do exactly what Harden has done, search out greener pastures?

His will be an interesting career to watch as the next few years unfold. If no other reason than to see if he and George Burns return to their original identities at just the moment he needs to hit the winning shot in the 2025 NBA Finals.


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