Trae Young on Hawks' Defensive Struggles: 'It's Frustrating. It's Not Fun.'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) defends against Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

Trae Young scored 56 points and dished out 14 assists while helping lead the Atlanta Hawks to 131 points during Monday's game.

Turns out, even that wasn't enough to win.

That's because Atlanta's defense allowed 136 points to a Portland Trail Blazers squad that was playing without Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Young opened up about the frustrations that come with his team struggling on the defensive end after the loss

"It's frustrating. It's not fun," Young said, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. "Being one of the best offensive teams in the league is a really good thing, but when you're letting teams score as much as you, it's not good for your team. We got to figure it out. We have time to figure it out. We have to do it. We have to keep the offense the way it's been going. We have to get more stops."

Expectations were high coming into the season for the Hawks, and for good reason.

They reached the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020-21 campaign and had Young coming back as one of the most promising young playmakers in the league. That he was coming off a breakout performance in the playoffs only led to more optimism.

However, Monday's loss dropped them to 16-20 and 12th place in the Eastern Conference. They are closer to the 14th-placed Detroit Pistons (7-28) than the conference-leading Chicago Bulls (25-10), and they don't look nearly as dangerous for the top teams in the East.

The struggles on one end of the floor are almost solely to blame.

Atlanta is an ugly 27th in the league in defensive rating, which stands in stark contrast to its second-best offensive rating behind only the Utah Jazz, per NBA.com.

For as excellent as Young is, his struggles on defense have been a concern. The team's defensive rating is 105.7 when he is off the floor but 114.7 when he's on it. What's more, opponents shoot 1.5 percent better than their normal averages overall and 8.4 percent better within six feet of the basket when he is guarding them.

Young recognized the defensive woes in his comments and stressed the Hawks still have plenty of time to figure things out as they look to play their way back into the postseason picture.

That starts Wednesday with a matchup against the Sacramento Kings.