Trae Young Scores 21 as Hawks Top Collin Sexton, Cavaliers in Rookie Duel

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 30, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 29: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks goes to the basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Deceber 29, 2018 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Trae Young and Vince Carter each had 21 points and John Collins added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-108 on Saturday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Larry Nance Jr. had 18 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and four steals for the 8-29 Cavs, who have lost six straight. Collin Sexton added 18 points as well.

The 11-24 Hawks have won five of their last six.

                  

Hawks' Recent Hot Stretch Shows They've Sketched the Right Rebuilding Blueprint

Prior to the season, OddsShark listed Atlanta with 350-1 NBA title odds, which was the third-lowest mark in the league.

The Hawks aren't about to win the NBA Finals, but they've proved they're a step ahead of the worst tier of teams in the league with their recent 5-1 stretch.

The rapid growth of Atlanta's young players has contributed to their ascent. Second-year big man John Collins, who was a 20-10 machine at Wake Forest, looks like he'll replicate that output in the pros. He has a sixth sense for rebounding and finishing at the rim, as evidenced by this putback dunk:

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Collins' first-class athleticism and ability to literally jump over his opponents and make plays should be a significant asset for years. His numbers also speak for themselves. Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report posted some of his eye-popping stats and efficiency marks:

Remarkably, Collins is just 21 years old, so he has plenty of room to improve upon his already-stellar marks.

Atlanta has a solid young core outside Collins, however, with point guard Young continuing his rapid rookie rise. In the five games leading into the Cavs win, the ex-Oklahoma Sooner averaged 15.8 points on 46.4 percent shooting. He also hit six of 12 three-pointers and dished 8.0 assists.

Young struggled with his shot in the early portion of the season, making just 37.8 percent of his field goals until the 5-1 streak. However, he's been doing well of late, a fact that isn't lost on Peachtree Hoops:

Michael Gallagher of Rotoworld noted Young's impressive shooting outside the mid-range:

Young's court vision has also been on point, like this bounce-pass dime to center Alex Len for an easy two in the lane:

Ultimately, Atlanta has the right blueprint in place to become a consistent playoff team.

Ten of 15 active Hawks are in their first or second years. They have a potential All-Star core of Collins and Young to build around and a boatload of cap space too.

Furthermore, Atlanta has two first-round draft picks next year: its own plus the Dallas Mavericks' pick after the Luka Doncic deal.

The Hawks likely aren't going to the playoffs despite their resurgence, and the Mavs are on the postseason borderline in the West. If neither goes to the postseason, that gives Atlanta more chances to get a top-three pick and land an elite prospect, like Duke's Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett.

In sum, Atlanta is on the right track moving forward and should leave the bottom half of the league in its dust soon.

      

What's Next?

The Hawks start a three-game road trip on Monday against the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland begins a four-game homestand on Wednesday versus the Miami Heat.

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