Trade speculation has circled Thaddeus Young for almost a year now. When fellow pre-Sam Hinkie Sixer Jrue Holiday was traded on draft day last year, some wondered whether Young would still be around at the start of the season. When he was, that speculation shifted to the trade deadline, where many figured he was as good as gone. But, while two more pre-Hinkie Sixers were traded from Philly, Young remained on the roster.
Young is a Sixer for the rest of the season, but the speculation is far from over. As the only remaining Sixer from the 2011-12 campaign that ended with a second-round playoff appearance, Young's future with the franchise, which has all but started from scratch, is still uncertain. He is an attractive asset, and the organization has demonstrated its' desire to have as many picks as possible in the upcoming deep draft.
In the face of the season-long speculation however, the longest-tenured Sixer is posting career highs in points, assists and steals in Brett Brown's up-tempo system. Young has really gotten to flex his versatility muscle this season - especially since his counterparts, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, were dealt on deadline day - and make his value visible to all the teams across the league's landscape.
He is third in the league in steals, which is pretty impressive for a power forward. He is averaging almost 18 points per (17.8) on a could-be-improved-upon but still solid 51.7 true shooting percentage. Throw is six rebounds a game as well and you get a pretty productive player.
Young can score, he has dropped 30 points in a game three times this season, and he can do it in a lot of different ways. He has made 58 three-pointers, and he is shooting 56 percent from the field from eight feet or closer, where the majority of his attempts come. He is a steady rebounder, as he has never averaged under five a game since his rookie season. He has also proven that he can pass, as he tallied 10 assists against Indiana late last week. The forward's size and relative quickness allow him to cover both post and perimeter players as well.
Yes, Young can do a lot of it all, and his biggest value may be in his versatility. He has played small forward and power forward. He has been in a reserve role and has been a starter for the Sixers. He removed threes from his repertoire, and then learned to incorporate them again, at the request of his coaches. Young has seen and been through a lot in seven professional seasons, and that experience is valuable as well.
This combination of skill, experience and versatility could be very valuable in today's NBA, and the right team could really benefit from what he brings to the table. One team that could benefit from his presence and skill set is the one that he is already on. While there will certainly be a market for Young this summer, the Sixers might want to hang on to him.
After adding what is hopefully a ton of talent through the draft, the Sixers will again be one of the youngest teams in the league, and the team will need some sort of veteran presence. It is unlikely that the franchise will invest a lot of money into established free agents this offseason, so Young's veteran presence could be very valuable to the young guys.
When I spoke to Young before the season started, he was aware of the potential struggle facing the Sixers (albeit maybe he didn't know just how ugly it would get), and he was excited about being looked to as a leader for the team. And despite the strain the season has developed into, the veteran, who would be an excellent addition to a championship charge, has been nothing short of professional, playing hard night-in and night-out, trying to improve individually and on a team level. He has already developed some sort of chemistry with Carter-Williams, as the two work well in the pick-and-roll, and he has remained a steady presence in the locker room, despite the losses.
Also, at only 25, Young could still relate well to the younger guys, like MCW, Noel, and whoever else Hinkie adds to the Sixers this summer.
While he could be an important presence in the locker room next season, Young's impact would be felt on the court as well. He is one of those players that does not need the ball to be effective, unlike former Sixer Evan Turner, and can get his own by feeding off of other players.
Young is good at spacing the floor, cutting to the basket and finding open spots for with which to receive a pass; all traits that are excellent for an offense. He can continue to be effective without stunting the growth of players like Carter-Williams and whoever the Sixers add in the draft, who may need the ball to develop and dominate.
Young's ability to play a couple positions only adds value to the Sixers, whose future roster is far from set in stone. Depending on who they draft, he could start or again embrace a reserve role (if willing), or play the three or the four; whatever best fits the team and the talent. His ability to play in the paint and also stretch it out past the three-point line gives the Sixers a lot of options, and could work to make their lineup very versatile when it comes to switching between playing traditional basketball and the increasingly-popular small ball.