For rebuilding teams in the NBA, there is nothing more important than finding a franchise cornerstone.
A player who the team can build around and count on to lead them to the playoffs and, ideally, the Finals.
For some teams, they spend years in the basement of standings and draft in the lottery repeatedly.
Other franchises can execute a rebuild fairly quickly.
In 2016-17, the Hawks finished 43-39 and made the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
But they clearly didn’t have what it took to win it all, so management blew it up to start over.
They were one of the worst teams in the league in 2017-18, which allowed them to draft 3rd.
With this pick, they selected Luka Doncic.
The Hawks were still a bad team during his first two seasons, but Young proved he was one of the league’s brightest young stars.
The Grizzlies followed a similar path to the Hawks.
A 7-year playoff run ending in 2016-17 and eventually leading to the team being disbanded.
Some ping pong ball luck in the 2019 draft lottery led to them getting the 2nd pick in the draft.
Where they would select Ja Morant, who would also prove to be a budding superstar.
This Ja Morant dunk has us (and Zion) SHOOK 😱pic.twitter.com/rnOjBdEkKA
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 17, 2021
Both Morant and Young are two of the league’s elite young point guards.
And in a league that is so dependent on guard play now, which one would a franchise rather build around?
Trae Young Is the Offense
Whenever Young is brought up, it is usually because of his offensive talent.
His career highlight reel is already stock full of saucy assists, slick handles, and pull-up threes that wow the crowd.
That didn't take long!
Trae Young starts the game off with a deep three!
3PTS, 3 AST in 3 MINSpic.twitter.com/mAsT2s1cOY
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 9, 2020
But his game is not only flashy – it’s also highly effective.
His rookie year saw him average 19 PPG and 8 APG while carrying a usage percentage that ranked in the 94th percentile of the league.
Young bettered those numbers in his sophomore campaign with 29.6 PPG and 9.3 APG while carrying an even higher usage percentage.
The scoring has dipped slightly this year, but that is more due to the Hawks putting better talent around Trae to ease the scoring burden.
Better talent has led to him averaging a career-high in APG (9.5) and FTA (10.2).
His on/off splits are staggering, too.
Atlanta is 10 points-per-100-possessions better with Young on the floor, including a staggering +9.5 on offense.
The Hawks’ offense craters without Young running the show.
His Steph Curry-like shooting range forces opponents to be cognizant of where he is at all times.
Defenses are stretched when he is on the floor, which creates openings for cuts and open threes.
Morant Projects as Better Defender
So far, neither player has been a quality defender.
Young is the more dynamic offensive talent, but Morant also plays a large role in his team’s offense.
Ja is a gifted passer and an elite athlete, which helps him finish at the rim.
Morant projects as a better defender than Young moving forward.
The Memphis point guard is listed at 6’3″, 174 lbs. with a 6’7″ wingspan.
Atlanta’s floor general is listed as 6’1″, 180 lbs. with a 6’2″ wingspan.
While Morant’s defensive metrics are down across the board, it could be in part due to the grade 2 left ankle sprain he suffered in the third game of the season.
Ja was taken off the floor in a wheelchair after an apparent lower leg injury
Prayers up 🙏 pic.twitter.com/OBY7QVjAcK
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 29, 2020
That could be the case because Morant was a decent defender his rookie year.
The Grizzlies surrendered 3.7 fewer points-per-100-possessions while Morant was on the floor last year.
Teams also shot worse from the field and he averaged nearly 1 SPG.
Another case for Ja projecting as a solid defender down the road is his size and athleticism.
As mentioned prior, he has a 6’7″ wingspan to go along with his 6’3″ frame.
While he needs to add some weight to hang with bigger guards, the size is there to defend on-ball and get in passing lanes.
Ja also plays at a high intensity and has a clear desire to win.
His blend of athleticism, high-motor, and intense mindset should serve him well down the road.
The Better Building Block
If I were starting up an NBA franchise, I would want to build around Trae Young.
Ja’s two-way potential and winning mentality is definitely enticing.
But the NBA is an offensively driven league that is increasingly reliant on elite shooting.
And Young is an elite shooter at only 22 years of age.
He seems to be within range the second he crosses half-court.
There are only a handful of players in the league with that ability.
The attention Young demands would open up the offense for the remaining players.
Offering them easier looks at the basket as Young draws double teams.
Trae’s court-vision and playmaking ability would allow teammates to take advantage of those open looks.
The TOP 4 ASSISTS of the 2018-19 season! #NBAAssistWeek
4) @TheTraeYoung with the ball-fake wizardry
3) Nikola Jokic goes deep on the outlet
2) @russwest44 attacks, spins and drops it off
1) @StephenCurry30 hits ahead in behind-the-back fashion pic.twitter.com/sLGLwZ4Xtz
— NBA (@NBA) August 16, 2019
While the defense isn’t there, and may never arrive, there are plenty of lock-down guards that could play next to Young.
Slotting defensive-minded 3-and-D wings at the 2 and 3 would let Trae guard the weakest offensive player on the opposing team and save his energy for the offensive end.
Trae Young would be my choice for the player to build around.
No knock to Ja Morant, but the Hawks’ star guard is a generational offensive talent.