The Atlanta Hawks are 22-28 and 10th in the Eastern Conference despite their recent win streak. As the trade deadline approaches, it would appear that Trae Young — recently named to his third All-Star game — is safe. The Hawks will probably trade Dejounte Murray, while Clint Capela, De'Andre Hunter, and A.J. Griffin are firmly on the chopping block.
That said, it feels like Young will eventually get tired of the mediocrity. The Hawks are a few years removed from that magical conference finals run in 2021 and there has been no meaningful progress. There's no reason to believe the current Hawks front office can put the necessary pieces around Young to truly contend. Young and Jalen Johnson is a great foundation, but the Hawks lack the supplies and the ingenuity to build more than a house of cards.
Don't think of this article as a condemnation of Trae Young, because it's not. He is wholly underrated around the league. His All-Star snub was a complete joke. Thankfully the league rectified it with the injury reserves. Young deserves a winning situation where his singular talent is appreciated. The Hawks shouldn't trade Young yet — keep him around as long as he's happy to be there — but it feels like we are slowly approaching the point where the tide turns and Atlanta is forced to reckon with their aimless trajectory.
If Young were to get traded, several teams should take an interest. In the spirit of creativity and entertainment, we are going to leave out a few logical destinations — Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Utah — in favor of, well, something to blow your socks off. Don't get it twisted, though. All teams mentioned here should pick up the phone if Atlanta makes Young available.
3. Thunder bring Trae Young back to his home state
The Oklahoma City Thunder can bring Trae Young home. The 25-year-old attended Norman North High School and played his college ball with the Sooners, where his prodigious offensive output led Atlanta to select him No. 5 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Young has always felt destined for the bright lights, but he should appreciate the quiet comforts of home in OKC. That, and the chance to compete for a title.
At 35-15, OKC is currently first place in the Western Conference. Sam Presti has meticulously built up the West's deepest roster while maintaining incredible flexibility on the trade front. No front office has more draft capital stored away. The Thunder have more than enough ammo to acquire Trae Young without sacrificing a member of their young core or their ability to swing another major trade down the line.
The new CBA factors into the equation, of course, as OKC will have trouble re-signing all of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams when the time comes. Even so, Young is too talented not to go after. He would add another source of advantage creation to OKC's deadly offense — an elite pick-and-roll guard with shifty handles and endless passing creativity. The Thunder can my-turn-your-turn their way to points, allowing Young and SGA to deliver alternating blows to ill-prepared defenses. Young would need to become more acquainted to off-ball work, but his shooting gravity changes the geometry of OKC's scheme. Holmgren would feast on lobs, while J-Dub can obliterate cracks in the defense that form due to the immense gravitational pull of Young and Gilgeous-Alexander.
Young would join the NBA's most balanced starting five. He's a defensive liability, but Young's effort level on that end has never been better. The Thunder can also surround him with more length and rim protection than just about any other team, so it's the ideal landing spot. It would take time for Young and Gilgeous-Alexander to establish chemistry and figure out the pecking order on offense, but sheer talent should carry OKC far with Young in tow.