Trae Young knows his foul-drawing technique drives opposing coaches and players crazy. He just doesn’t care.
The Hawks guard has been getting to the charity stripe at an incredibly high rate this season, averaging 9.7 free throw attempts per game, second in the NBA to only Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (9.8). He is shooting 88.9 percent on those attempts, giving him easy points as he continues to struggle from the field (38.6 percent).
There will always be the typical arguments about stars embellishing contact in the hopes of hearing a whistle, but one Young move in particular has elicited strong reactions around the league. Young has mastered the art of driving past his defender, stopping on a dime and creating contact before that player can slow down.
Here’s an example:
During a late December game against the Nets, Young once again pulled out this strategy, drawing a foul on the trailing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Brooklyn coach Steve Nash was incensed by the call and appeared to tell a referee, “That’s not basketball.” The former first-round pick out of Oklahoma went 14-of-16 from the line in that contest.
Well, Young happened to see what Nash said, and it’s hard to argue with his response.
“I bet if I was playing for Steve, he’d be happy,” Young told The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner. “It’s something in the midst of competition that he was wanting to win, and I was wanting to win, and I’m gonna do whatever it takes. I think him wanting to get in the refs’ ears a little bit was just trying to help him. I learned a lot about drawing fouls from him.
“If he says it’s not basketball, he must’ve been saying it about himself because he’s done it a couple of times throughout his career and was so successful.”
Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, never shot free throws at a high rate — his career high in attempts per game was 4.1 in 2002-03 with the Mavericks — but much like Young, he learned the little tricks that allow a smaller guard to thrive in a league full of giants. And for what it’s worth, Nash later admitted he was “impressed” with Young’s ability to dupe his opponents.
While Nash and the rest of the league may not like it, Young will continue to employ the move as long as it results in points for Atlanta. He knows it’s a legal play, so he can easily dismiss any complaints.
“When it frustrates a team that badly that you can’t stop it, it’s gratifying,” Young told Kirschner. “I know it’s frustrating for opposing teams but it’s good for our team, and that’s all that matters to me.”
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