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Thaddeus Young's future

We're getting closer to the first draft workout at PCOM, the 76ers' practice facility. Look for that first workout to be somewhere around June 1, three weeks before the 2011 NBA Draft that's scheduled to be held June 23. We've covered the draft prospects ad naseum on this blog. If you want to read about some of the power forwards/centers that the Sixers could be looking to snag with the No. 16 pick, you can find that here: Sizing it up. If you just can't get enough and you want to read about the pre-Chicago combine assessment of the bigs in the draft, that's here: big men. If you want to read about the fringe possibility of drafting a shooting guard, you can find that information here: shooting guards. And if you still want to read more, you can get updates on three Sixers through earlier posts: guard-forward Evan Turner, center Spencer Hawes, and big man Craig Brackins.

This is kind of a quiet week for NBA news, unless your team is still playing. The Sixers' brass of president Rod Thorn, general manager Ed Stefanski, assistants Tony DiLeo and Courtney Witte, and coach Doug Collins are more than likely assessing the potential draft picks they watched and interviewed in Chicago, while Stefanski went on to evaluate talent at a smaller combine in Minnesota. In the next weeks, they'll put together a draft board, ranking available players.

Since we've targeted this off season as crucial to bumping this team from 41 wins to 50 wins, we've been trying to address some of the non-draft issues this team will face in the coming months. Per a few email requests (please send any questions you might want addressed to, today's topic is forward Thaddeus Young. The questions on Young were two-fold: will he return to the Sixers next year and does he have a chance to become this team's starting small forward?

Here's the background info on Young's situation. He's entering his fifth season in the NBA. Earlier in the 2010-11 season, the Sixers did not offer him a contract extension, so on July 1 he becomes a restricted free agent. The Sixers will qualify him, meaning they have the opportunity to match any offer made, with the pre-arranged $4.0 million qualifying offer as stipulated in the NBA's rookie contract system. On July 1, obviously under the assumption the lockout situation gets worked out, which is clearly a major assumption, other teams can sign Young to an offer sheet. The Sixers will have the opportunity to match any offer. For example, if on July 5 (randomly chosen date), the New Orleans Hornets (randomly chosen team) sign Young to an offer sheet of 5 years, $35 million (seriously randomly chosen numbers), the Sixers would have seven days to match the offer. If no other team signs Young to an offer sheet, he will play the 2011-12 season with the Sixers for the $4 million qualifying offer and then after that season he would become an unrestricted free agent. (Yes, the NBA is complicated.)

Here's the background on Young's numbers with the Sixers: 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds his rookie season, 15.3 and 5.0 his sophomore season, 13.8 and 5.2 his third season, and 12.7 and 5.3 during this most recent season with Collins.

OK, so those are the numbers.

I would put the likelihood that Young returns to the Sixers at 92 percent. (Let's not get carried away with that number, it's an educated guess from having conversations about the situation -- and it's fun to put a number on the accumulated knowledge of these conversations.) There is no way for me to overstate the quality of the relationship between Collins and Young. Collins considers Young one of the most impressive guys (character, listening ability, responsiveness, game, personality) he's coached. And Young respects Collins and enjoys playing for him. I'd go so far as to say Young believes in what Collins can do with this franchise and, more specifically, what Collins can do for Young's game. Young wants to return to the Sixers. And the franchise, by all accounts, plans on matching any reasonable offer sheet. No one knows what's going to happen with the next CBA, and how that will change things, but if another team signs Young to a fair offer sheet, the Sixers will match. The only reason Young wouldn't return is if a team signs Young to an insanely above-market-value offer sheet. The Sixers, within a broad range of contract offers, plan to bring back Thaddeus Young.

As for the second question received (can Young become this team's starting small forward?), here's the lay of the land. If Andre Iguodala remains a Sixer over the summer, he will rightfully be this team's starting small forward. If Iguodala is traded over the summer, the Sixers will enter training camp with an open starting spot at small forward. As we've said in previous posts (check out the hot link to "Evan Turner"), it's possible that the team and Turner himself could be looking at him returning next fall as a potential small forward. If the position is open, Turner and Young would enter training camp as potential options for starting small forward. Collins and Young, as we mentioned multiple times toward the end of the season, have had conversations about Young's potential to become an all-star. Collins has told Young that if he develops a consistent 15-foot jumper and can consistently make a corner three-pointer, he can become an NBA All-Star. If Young can force defenders to respect his mid-range jumper, something defenders don't totally do right now, then Young could be a 20-points-per-game scorer. And if he doesn't become a starter, he'd be a front-runner for Sixth Man of the Year.

It seems the only question with Young's potential as a starter is his lack of a definitive position. We're talking about him right now as a small forward, but he's proven effective as a backup power forward. It might make more sense for Collins and the Sixers to use him as the backup small and backup power forward and drop him 32 minutes a game (he played 26.1 minutes a game this season). As with many questions facing the Sixers, all of this depends on what kind of game Turner shows up with this fall, what kind of jumper Young shows up with, and what kind of moves the team makes to free up opportunities for each or both.

But one thing is certain: the Sixers aim to bring back Young.

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