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Why Lloyd Pierce was right about Trae Young’s USA Basketball snub

Atlanta Hawks young phenom Trae Young was snubbed from USA Basketball and his head coach, Lloyd Pierce, is spot-on with his explanation as why.

Trae Young is one of the game’s emerging stars and while accomplishing a lot through his first year-and-a-half, he doesn’t belong with USA Basketball’s Olympic squad, yet.

Young sent out a tweet that raised eyebrows — at least those of this writer — saying, “Congrats to these 44 players, and the 12 that make the roster.” But Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce believes Young hasn’t earned the honor yet.

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The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Sarah K. Spencer asked about “if it was hard to not see Young named a finalist” for the Olympic invitees list, released on Monday, and he offered a candid response.

“No, because honestly I respect the league, I respect the levels and layers you have to go through,” he said. “Trae’s having a great year. These guys have had great careers. And you have to go through certain things and you have to understand when it’s your time, when it’s your opportunity. He’s a first-time All-Star. We’re talking about guys, three-time Olympic appearances, and international basketball is different. … You don’t just go because you’re good. You go because you’ve earned the right, the honor. You have the right mindset.”

He would go on to reference giving up 45 days to go battle for the United States, and that guys like Harrison Barnes and Mason Plumlee — who both made the list of 44 despite being role players — have made that commitment previously. Pierce has coached with USA Basketball as an assistant, so he’s no stranger to what it takes.

Young’s rookie campaign rivaled that of winner Luka Doncic. Young has only taken a leap in his second season, playing more minutes, taking more shots and improving his shooting efficiency. This season he’s averaging 29.7 points, 9.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, though he’s turning it over 4.9 times per game. He’s a solid pick-and-roll player and can shoot it well. But he’s leading the league in total turnovers, in part due to a young roster. He has a solid shooting slash of .443/.370/.853.

While Young will enjoy his first All-Star weekend in a blistery Chicago, he’ll have to wait his turn to represent his native country. The 21-year-old has plenty of time ahead of him to play in the Olympics. For now, he’ll have to focus on playing within a team system as a young Hawks team grows together.

Last season, Atlanta was 29-53 and this season, while marked by injuries and a suspension to John Collins and late addition with Clint Capela, the Hawks are still 15-40. They have a bright future but in terms of winning a gold medal on the largest global stage, he may not be ready.

Even draft class rival Doncic wasn’t invited, and he won a gold medal in the 2017 EuroBasket championship. He has international experience playing with Real Madrid from 2015-18. He could also play for his native Slovenia.

Trae Young’s issue is he sits behind legendary NBA players such as Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and other veteran stars from around the league. While the NBA is trending towards a bright future with its younger pool of players, they still have to pay their dues and earn their spots, which to Pierce’s point is why Young — his star point guard — is at least one Olympic cycle away.

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