Luka Doncic has spent the entire 2018-19 season leading the NBA's Rookie of the Year race by a hilarious margin. Even now, as he trudges through more down-to-earth performances amid the Dallas Mavericks' not-involuntary tank, his case has long since muted those from his first-year peers.
Trae Young, though, refuses to bow out quietly.
This idea that he warrants a top-two share of the best-rookie debate is still difficult to grasp. Young opened the season with disastrous shooting splits, while Doncic began his career on relative fire. When they were mentioned in the same breath, it was not as a point of genuine comparison, but to litigate the draft-day trade in which they were swapped for one another.
And even that quickly grew old.
Verdicts were drawn swiftly and unequivocally. It soon started making little sense to rehash the deal. The Atlanta Hawks lost. Dallas must still convey a first-rounder to complete the return (top-five protection this year), but the Hawks lost. Said pick will never begin to bridge the cosmic void separating Doncic from Young.
That line of thinking is gradually starting to crack. Young is playing well enough to overhaul the discussion—for the trade to be more complicated than the initial reactions, and for the Rookie of the Year winner to be something less than an unreachable formality.