On Wednesday, two of the league's rising young stars will go head-to-head when the Phoenix Suns host the Atlanta Hawks.
On Atlanta's side, Trae Young, who earned his first-ever All-Star selection last season with averages of 29.6 points, 9.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. On Phoenix's side, Devin Booker, who was named an All-Star for the first time in his career last season with averages of 26.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game.
It was the first of likely many All-Star selections to come for both of them, but which one of Young and Booker would you rather have this season?
Two members of our NBA.com Staff, Scott Rafferty(@crabdibbles) and Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane) make their case for each side ahead of the matchup.
Who would you rather have: Trae Young or Devin Booker?
Kidane's case for Young: Although it's been an up-and-down start to the season for the Hawks, I'm rolling with Young.
Young cemented himself as a star last season, earning his first All-Star selection, finishing the season fourth in scoring and second in assists, but despite his elite play, the Hawks won just 20 games and missed the playoffs.
Through nine games this season, he hasn't quite hit the same heights, averaging 24.8 points (17th in NBA) and 8.5 assists (5th) while still finding his touch from long range (28.5%), but the Hawks look like a playoff team. Between the new faces on the roster, opposing teams zeroing in on him on defence and a lengthy layoff between seasons, I still think the best is yet to come for the 22-year-old this season.
His lack of effectiveness on the defensive end is negated by his ridiculous offensive game, which he continues to expand. Hate it or love it, Young is drawing fouls at a James Harden-like rate. He leads the league in free-throws made and is second only to Giannis Antetokounmpo in attempts.
With seemingly limitless range from beyond the arc, Young stretches defences like only a few players in the league can, given he's a threat to score the second he steps across halfcourt.
This is a point guard's league and offence rules.
Booker is more efficient and a much better defender, but the attention Young garners from defences and his ability to not only score the ball himself at all three levels but create for his teammates puts him over the top for me.
Rafferty's case for Booker: I mean, Benyam kind of made Booker's case for me.
Not only is Booker a much better defender and a more efficient scorer, he is a more malleable player on offence because of his ability to play on and off the ball at a high level. We all know he's an elite shooter - Booker drew comparisons to the likes of Danny Green and Klay Thompson coming into the NBA, don't forget - but he's grown tremendously as a pick-and-roll and isolation scorer over the last few seasons, to the point where he's one of the most versatile scorers in the league.
That's not to say Booker is necessarily as good of an on-ball scorer as Young. Young is one of the best pick-and-roll scorers in the league. He also has the edge on Booker in the passing department. But even if you are of that belief, the gap between Booker and Young on-ball is far smaller than the gap between them off-ball and the other end of the court.
Besides, Booker is a solid pick-and-roll scorer given his ability to score efficiently from all three levels and he's improved greatly as a facilitator the last few seasons. His turnovers are way up to start this season, but he's been throwing some dimes lately.
For me, this ultimately comes down to Booker being someone you can put on basically any team in the league because there's little he can't do on offence, whereas Young is at his best when the offence is centred entirely around him. There's value in both, but if I don't know who else is on my team, I'm rolling with Booker.
I'm interested to see if the jury agrees.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I think by the end of their careers, Young might have the better one, but right now I'm rolling with Booker.
As Scott said, Booker can play off the ball right now, making him a bit more versatile on offence. His defence in my opinion isn't anything to write home about but Young's defence at this point has been nonexistent.
I think in a couple more years I'll have a harder time deciding between the two, but right now I'm taking Booker.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): It's hard to pin the two players against each other because I'm such a big fan of both of their games. As much as I want to go with Young, I'm also going Booker.
Narratives can change in the matter of moments in the NBA - faster than any other professional sports league, in my opinion. If Young had been playing better as of late, I may have taken him in this argument. Benyam put up a good fight for him, especially noting how much more frequently he's been getting to the line this year, but Booker's Suns are living up to expectations whereas Young's Hawks aren't.
Trae is still working things out in the league and by the time he's six years into his career like Booker, I'm sure this will be an even harder argument to decipher. But for now, I'm taking Book.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm becoming a bigger and bigger Trae fan as time passes, but I still gotta go with D-Book.
Similar to what Carlan said, time has a lot to do with it. Even though he's just 24, this is Booker's sixth season in the league, meaning he's figured the NBA game out to the point where it's now his time to be the guy on a legitimate contender.
It's Year 3 for Trae and he's still learning some things, but that time is coming.
Final Score: Booker 3, Young 0
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