With so many fresh, inexperienced faces populating Sixers’ training camp at The Philadelphia College of Orthopedic Medicine this summer, it was assumed that the team’s established veterans: Thad Young, Spencer Hawes, and Evan Turner would be responsible for much of the team’s on-court production, and locker room leadership.
While Turner and Hawes have seen their stats spike in Brett Brown’s up-tempo offense, Thad has had some obvious difficulty adjusting to his sixth new head coach since being drafted by the 76ers. Instead of improving, Young’s points and rebounds per game are both down from the 2012-13 season, as is his shooting percentage, which currently sits at 46%, compared to last season’s 53%.
Brett Brown’s fast-break-friendly, motion style offense would seem to be an ideal situation for Thad to flourish, as Spencer and E.T. are, since he is athletic and operates well in the open court. But, the adjustment hasn’t been smooth, and has occasionally left Young looking lost.
The real issue remains Young’s size. A career “tweener,” Young has trouble scoring in the paint against bigger forwards, so he favors a perimeter-oriented approach. He possess an extremely consistent mid-range jump shot that he has used to his advantage over the years. However, Spencer Hawes, a center, who you would normally associate with paint play, is actually the team’s best three-point threat (Aldies & gentlemen…your 2013-14 Sixers!). Hawes is averaging almost four three-point attempts per game, and is hitting them at an extremely efficient 46% clip. So therefore Hawes has been playing around the perimeter quite a bit, leaving Young to patrol the paint; somewhat unfamiliar territory. (Obviously the Sixers can’t spread five around the arc).
Many of the plays in the Sixers offense require one big to be the trailer and stay out past the arc, while the other big hits the opposite block. Hawes has often been the trailer due his efficiency from long range, which leaves Young to battle it on out the block, being what he calls the “hard-work guy.”
“I’m having a hard time adjusting to being under the basket all the time,” Young himself recentlytold Christopher A. Vito of the Delco Times. “I’m just hustling, trying to get us extra possessions, and stuff like that.”
While his attitude should be applauded, his struggles are somewhat concerning. Young all but disappears offensively at times, as he has scored under eight points three separate times this season. In an offense where Evan Turner can drop 20 on a nightly basis and Tony Wroten can record a triple-double in his first career start, Young should be able to muster more than 14 points per game.
Young occasionally falls back to a comfort zone and can be seen taking long two-point attempts; a by-product of the ill-fated Doug Collins era. While Brett Brown doesn’t love those attempts, he has encouraged Young to shoot more threes; something he did decently early in his career, but had gotten away from under DC.
Back in July, Thad told Philadunkia’s Jeff McMenamin that he was working on his 3-point shooting this summer and was feeling good about his stroke. He has already attempted twice as many threes this year (15 3FGAs) than he did all of last season and his jumper looks good. However, Thad has only shot one 3FGA in the last four games and to be honest recently it appears he hasn’t been looking for his shot behind the arc at all. Clearly Brown is trying to utilize Young’s unique talents, which present mismatches for opposing teams, but also make it difficult to define a clear role for the seventh year forward.
Hopefully, Young will figure it out and get in a groove going forward, as his contributions are key to the success of the Sixers. When Thad is playing well he adds an entirely different dimension to this team. However, his struggles so far this season are evident, and if he can’t find a way to get back on track and contribute consistently, then it may come time to evaluate where he fits with the franchise going forward.
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia.
You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikekb.
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