The 76ers have said for days -- and even as far back as last year -- that bringing back forward Thaddeus Young was a priority for them.
They proved that this evening by agreeing to terms with Young, a restricted free agent; the deal is worth approximately $43 million over five years, a source has confirmed. The fifth year of the deal is optional, with the option belonging to Young.
Young did not participate in the team's first practice this evening at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, but he will be back with the team for tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon's session.
As the last week dragged on, it looked very much like the Sixers were going to put themselves in a precarious position: allow Young to sign another team's offer sheet, the amount of which was unknown. Although general knowledge held that Young was worth in the range of $7-$8 million a year, the Sixers couldn't necessarily rule out the possibility that some other team (the Kings? The Denver Nuggets?) would swoop in with a $9-$10 million/year offer for Young. The new rules of the collective bargaining agreement state that all NBA teams must reach a minimum level (85 percent) of the league's $58 million salary cap. Because of that, certain teams will be forced to overpay guys in order to reach that level. Was Young going to be one of those guys? The Sixers desperately hoped not.
In the end, as Young spoke with other teams and waited for the blockbuster moves to be made (and unmade, in one very notable instance), a couple of things seemed to play out for Young. First, Young always wanted to return to Philly. He truly enjoys playing for coach Doug Collins; he truly believes Collins can make him an all-star-level player. Although at one time Young seemed to be pushing for a contract in the range of $10 million a year, the realization began setting in that such a number was probably a stretch. Young could continue waiting for a team to drop a huge offer sheet on him, but doing so was a risk: it might not happen, and he'd miss very valuable training camp time if he did.
The Sixers weren't willing to go that high for Young -- and rightly so. But as the beginining of training camp drew near, the two sides began trying to make a deal in earnest. Young gets what he needs: the security of a long-term guaranteed contract. The Sixers get what they need: a valuable asset off the bench, a young guy just entering the prime years of his career.
Now the question everyone will debate: did the Sixers overpay?
Not really, no. If the Sixers hadn't made it clear they were going to match an offer in this range, another NBA team likely would have signed Young to this kind of offer sheet. But because other teams knew offering this kind of deal to Young would have tied up their money for three days (the length of time the Sixers would have had to match), it didn't make sense for any team to drop the offer sheet. If Young, instead, had played this season for his qualifying offer of about $4 million and became a free agent (not restricted) after this upcoming season, he likely would have landed exactly this deal -- if not a touch more. But doing that didn't make sense for Young, because then he risked injury and added the stress of still not having a contract.
So it made sense for both sides to just get this done now.
Young is only 23 years old. He's just starting the prime years of his career. And he's injury free. Young has four-year NBA averages of 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. But those numbers have come as a reserve, with only 28.1 minutes a game. During the 2008-09 season, Young averaged 15.3 points a game. Sixers fans will remember that Young was on fire down the stretch of that season. It was only a turned ankle near the end of the season that slowed Young, and really cost the Sixers down the stretch of that season.
The Sixers know that Young is really only a decent 15-foot jumper away from averaging 18-20 points a game. Will he add that jumper to his game? We're going to see very soon if he has. Collins told Young at the end of last season that adding that jumper would make him unstoppable, because Young's quickness to the rim cannot be stopped if it's coupled with a reliable mid-range shot.
The Sixers now have two of the best off-the-bench guys in the NBA: Young and combo guard Lou Williams.