Coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks had high hopes for this season, looking to build on their playoff momentum, however at the haflway point of the season, they find themselves on the outside looking in. 

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Sitting at 17-25, good for 12th in the standings, the Hawks will be hoping to replicate last season’s late surge that saw them climb to the fifth seed and make a deep playoff push.

The Hawks, like many teams have struggled for any lineup consistency this season, due to injuries and COVID-19 health and safety protocols, however their one constant this season has been the All-NBA level performances of Trae Young.

Sure, they aren’t winning a ton of games, but Young’s offensive displays are making a strong argument towards him being the best point guard in the Eastern Conference.

Through 38 games this season, Young is fourth in scoring behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, averaging a career-high 27.6 points on career-best shooting numbers of 45.4 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from deep on 7.4 attempts per game.

He is also currently tied with Kevin Durant for the fourth-most 30-point games this season (15), behind Joel Embiid (16), Giannis Antetokounmpo (17) and LeBron James (19). While his 9.3 assists per game are third in the league, behind only James Harden and Chris Paul, with his overall influence on the Hawks’ offense, nothing short of immense.

(Getty Images)
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With Young on the floor, the Hawks boast an offensive rating of 115.5, compared to just 101.5 when he sits, a full 14 points better off with their guard running the show. 

Young isn’t just performing at a high level for the Hawks, his numbers are putting him on a historic level. The 23-year-old is coming off a streak of 17-straight games scoring 25-plus points, breaking Dominique Wilkins’ franchise record, per Hawks PR

In December, he became the first-ever Hawks player to record five consecutive games of 25-plus points and 10-plus assists. The last player to do so was Russell Westbrook in his MVP winning 2016-17 season, per Hawks PR. Young also leads the NBA with 14 25/10 games — the next-closest player in the NBA has five such games.

Now put that into historical context.

In NBA history, there have only been 14 other instances of a player averaging at least 27.0 points and 9.0 assists over the course of an entire regular season, per StatHead. Young did it in just his second NBA season in 2019-20 and looks well on the way to do it again this go around. 

Oscar Robertson did it eight times between 1961-68, while Tiny Archibald is the only other player to do it more than once achieving the feat between 1971-73. The other three players on the list — Russell Westbrook (2016-17), who was named MVP that season after averaging a triple-double, and James Harden (2016-17) and LeBron James (2017-18) both finished second in MVP voting in their respective seasons.

The Hawks are on the outside of the East’s playoff picture, hovering below .500, keeping Young out of the MVP conversation for now. In Sporting News’ recent MVP Ladder, he didn’t make the cut, but if the Hawks repeat last season’s second half of the season surge, don’t be surprised to hear Young’s name in the mix.  

A likely starter in the All-Star game in Cleveland in February, Young trails only DeMar DeRozan in fan voting among Eastern Conference guards.

During his blistering 2021-22 season, he has separated himself from the pack of point guards in the East. Ben Simmons has yet to play a game this season for the 76ers, while Kyrie Irving is only just returning after missing a large chunk of the first half of the season ofr the Nets. Kemba Walker has had his struggles in New York, while Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball fall into the tier below. 

When you go down the list, Young stands alone as the best point guard in the East right now and perhaps his only real competition around the league is Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard,Luka Doncic and Ja Morant, who is quickly putting his name along with the league’s best point guards. But when you look across the landscape, there’s no denying Young has every right to feel like a top-five point guard and based on his numbers, a top-10 player isn’t that farfetched.