It’s kind of hard to believe that the Philadelphia 76ers 2007 first round draft pick is now a veteran. But he is. Thaddeus Young, 22, has played in 234 career games and has quietly been thriving of late after a sluggish start to the 2010-11 season.
Often going into games uncertain of how much time he will receive off the bench, Young hasn’t let that affect his aggressiveness. He’s scored over 10 points in nine of the Sixers last 10 games (13.5 ppg). Behind Brand, Holiday and Iguodala, Thad is becoming one of few players on the roster Doug Collins can count on night-in and night-out.
“I’ve been pleased overall early this season. I embrace being the guy coming off the bench to give us that spark,” said Young. “I provided that tonight,” Young continued after a recent game vs. the Wizards. “My teammates always do a good job of helping me get into the game.”
Young demonstrated what he could do with extra minutes (39 of them) against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 19th. With AI9 sidelined, someone had to team up with Elton Brand to try and solve what was at the time the NBA’s top ranked scoring defense. Thad did more than solve the Bucks, he torched them. He got to the free throw line (7-for-8) he poured in an assortment of short jumpers and slam dunks (8/13 from the field) and most importantly he was versatile enough to lead multiple fast breaks.
The Sixers habitually play with four guards on the court and Coach Collins hasn’t been utilizing their speed so far this season. The common denominator in three of Philadelphia’s four wins (excluding the W vs. the Knicks) this season has been fast break scoring — at least 17 fast break points in victories — and Young recognizes running in the open court as his biggest strength.
“The way I can get up and down floor at the three or the four spot really gives certain guys problems,” said Young. “I can be a mismatch waiting to happen and creating those kinds of openings are how you win games.”
The problem with Young is locating those mismatches and having him in during the appropriate defensive sets. I’ve noted twice that he doesn’t mesh well with Iguodala or Evan Turner. When all three are on the court not only are there spacing issues but there isn’t a capable outside shooter to attract rebounders away from underneath the hoop. Thad’s defense and rebounding are often shaky but defense and positioning can be taught through coaching. What can’t be taught is Young’s offensive awareness. Of the seven players who play 20 plus minutes regularly, Young’s 0.9 turnover average is tops on the squad. Oh and I almost forgot to mention he leads the Sixers in field goal percentage at 59.6 percent.
The Sixers playoff hopes are sadly a long shot. Young is tailor-made to be that above-stated energy guy off the bench — for a contending team though. What good does it do this franchise to have one it’s youngest and most capable players only log 24 minutes a night? When I asked Young it was kind of clear he agreed with my assessment. But his genuine character and dedication to the team were quoted otherwise.
“I’m not sure about starting. That’s up to Coach Collins and the rest of the coaching staff, but I’m fine with wherever they see me fitting in this season,” said a hesitant yet smiling Young. He’s the kind of player who is serious about his game both on and off the court. He also wants to say the right things in interviews and execute when it matters the most.
Of those 234 career games played, Young has started 139, the most being 71 during the 2008-2009 season with the Elton Brand injury. Although many analysts will say Young struggled mightily under Eddie Jordan last year, overall I believe he is a much better player today though than he was when he was 20. However, it’s reached that now-or-never point in his stint with the Sixers. Even though he’s the same age as Evan Turner, Thad needs to have a break out season and take his game to that next level. Otherwise I believe he could find himself on the way out of town as part of a trade.
Thus, I’d like to see increased minutes for Thad off the bench so that Rod Thorn and us can make a decision once and for all — is Thaddeus Young an important part of the future here in Philly or is he one of the 76ers most notable trading pieces. The Sixers are 5-13 right now. There is no doubt that changes need to be made and increased playing time for Thad would truly be a win-win situation for our organization.