Trae Young needs to change his game after Nate McMillan’s firing, or he could be next in Atlanta End-shutdown

The Altanta Hawks fired Nate McMillan on Tuesday, and it was a long time coming. After what was, in hindsight, a matchup-friendly and ultimately misleading run to the 2021 Eastern Conference finals, the Hawks, despite their talented roster that last summer included Dejounte Murray, they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league to go in two years now.

The coach’s defenders will say that McMillan is a scapegoat. Hey it’s not. Outside of the 2021 honeymoon that coincidentally coincided with roster health in a way Lloyd Pierce never enjoyed, McMillan hasn’t come close to maximizing the sizable parts at his disposal.

Offensively, he’s almost hard to watch. McMillan is old school, which, to be honest, is just a euphemism for opinionated or unimaginative, or both, and outdated. The Hawks don’t pass. They don’t move. They take and make fewer 3s than almost every team in the league. Atlanta is one of those teams that people who don’t know anything like to say anyone could coach because, honestly, there isn’t much to what they do.

Ask yourself: What NBA-caliber coach couldn’t stand on the sidelines and watch Trae Young execute a thousand pick-and-rolls while everyone else stands still? Throw in Murray for some one-on-one stuff, and you’ve got your Hawks offense, which, this season, he rates as below average. If you can’t get a top-10 offense, at the very least, out of a team led by Trae Young, you have to go.

That said, Young has some blame here, too, and if he’s not willing to change his game for the next coach to come in, he could be the next out of Atlanta.

It’s not about Young’s shooting, which has dipped considerably this season and has it has never been as good as its reputation would suggest. It’s about his continued disinterest in being an active participant off the ball.

Part of a coach’s job, of course, is to sell the best player in a win-win system, as Steve Kerr did with Stephen Curry when he moved on from the predictable, drunken offense of Mark Jackson (who was also woefully under-performing). ) to the ball-movement philosophy and player who went on to win all four of the Warriors’ championships.

McMillan never made that sales pitch, or if he did, Young never bought what he was selling. The hope is that a new coach can open Young’s mind in a different way and, in turn, maximize the Hawks’ offense. This is a title he wants to earn right now. Young putting up flashy stats while playing .500 basketball isn’t going to cut it.

Frankly, Young could end up requesting a trade before Atlanta can look to move him on its own. He could surely argue that the winds are starting to blow that way. McMillan is the second coach he has come up against.

Atlanta doesn’t want to trade Young. They changed Luka Doncic for him, shouting. Yes, they’d get a lot of Young, but that’s still an intensely bitter pill to swallow with no guarantee they’ll ever replicate his talent, either individually or as a team.

The Hawks want this to work with Young. Firing McMillan is his first step in trying to make that happen. However, if Young doesn’t change and the next coach produces the same disappointing results, what then? Will Young ever accept a role that asks not only for him to concede some control (which he has shown to be willing to do with Murray), but for him to actually do more than spatially observe right now?

It takes a real commitment to put the energy into moving, steadily and at full speed, without the ball with no guarantee that you’ll get it back. At most, what Young does is fan out and wait for a kick pass or his chance to run to the ball for a dribble handoff.

Does Young have the kind of humility to run far of the ball, if only for the purpose of taking defenders with it? That kind of genuine interest in winning on someone else’s terms is a rare trait in players so extremely talented that they have every right to believe they are always the best choice. It’s hard to watch for a player like Young, especially when the Hawks were the second-best offense in the league just a year ago.

But teams, looking down from 10,000 feet, are beginning to realize that even regular-season success can be misleading when it comes to how defensive you are in a postseason setting. The Hawks were knocked out of the first round by Miami last season because Young was forced to give up the ball and then served as nothing more than a statue once he did.

Bottom line: In today’s NBA, it may be impossible to win at the highest level without thinking and playing more collectively.

Even if Young were to buy, there’s no guarantee wins will follow. Using the Warriors as an example is dangerous because Young is not Curry. no one is The Blazers have tried to get Damian Lillard further off the ball, and they’re still a .500 team. You need other pieces, great passes and instinctive cutters, to make a system that relies on random movements viable.

The Hawks have capable players in this regard. Onyeka Okongwu is a good pass and big detection, a fancier Kevon Looney if you will. De’Andre Hunter has ball skills. Obviously, Murray does too. But young is the sun. Everything revolves around him. If he doesn’t agree, no one will. At this point, Atlanta will have to start imagining a new life without the man they planned long ago to guide them into what was supposed to be a bright future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *