Has Trae Young played his final games for the Hawks?

Trae Young’s left pinky injury will keep him out of action for at least four weeks. With the Hawks telegraphing significant moves in the offseason, could Trae Young have played his final games in Atlanta? 

Toronto Raptors v Atlanta Hawks
Toronto Raptors v Atlanta Hawks / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

The Atlanta Hawks’ play-in chances were dealt a serious blow when Trae Young suffered a left pinky injury. While the left pinkie might be the least important digit for an NBA player, Young’s torn ligament required surgery and will keep him on the shelf for at least four weeks. If he can return in exactly four weeks, he’ll miss the Hawks’ next 11 or 12 games, which could be enough time for the Hawks’ season to slip away.  

The Hawks currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a four-game lead over the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets for the final play-in spot. However, the Raptors have won three straight games and are playing their best basketball of the season. If the Raptors continue their surge and the Hawks flounder without Young, they could fall out of the final play-in spot and be forced to answer some tough questions. 

Why Trae Young could not play again this season

The Hawks are in a precarious position. They’re a less-than-mediocre team fighting to be the worst team to make the play-in. Fans can tell themselves the play-in is the playoffs, but the truth is the Hawks are likely to finish the season as the 20th-best team in a 30-team league. What’s the point of rushing Trae Young back for that? 

The Hawks owe two future first-round picks and a swap to the San Antonio Spurs from the Dejounte Murray trade between the 2025 and 2027 drafts, but they control their pick in the upcoming 2024 draft. This is the last season until 2028 when the Hawks can wave the white flag and actually have it benefit them. Sometimes, the best way to win a war is to retreat, and Young’s pinky injury is the perfect excuse to pull back the troops and regroup for better days. 

Why Trae Young’s days in Atlanta could be numbered

Ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline, Dejounte Murray’s name was all over the rumor mill. The Hawks reportedly engaged in real conversations with the Lakers, but a deal never materialized. The most likely reason the Hawks didn’t move Murray is they felt the offers were not representative of his talent. With the offense to himself over the next ten games, and potentially more, Murray will have a chance to prove that the Hawks’ valuation of him was accurate. 

However, if Murray excels running the Hawks’ offense, the organization could change their thinking. Young is widely considered a better player than Murray, and that could make him a far more enticing candidate to move because of the better compensation they would receive. Throw in Murray is on a far cheaper contract, and suddenly retooling in the short term around Murray, and not Young, suddenly becomes a far more attractive proposition. 

Trae Young having played his final games for the Hawks is entirely speculative. The organization has built everything around him, and moving on from him would mark the end of an era. However, outside of one surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks have never been much better than .500 with Young leading the charge. The Hawks, regardless if they hold on to Young, need to pick a new direction, and ending their partnership with Young would achieve that. 

Most franchises are loathe to trade their superstar, but most superstars provide more winning than Young has. The Hawks’ final 20 games of the season will be telling. Let’s see what they have to say. 

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