Thaddeus Young's Final Season in Philly?

Chad Ford published his list of top free agents on ESPN today, where he ranks our own Thaddeus Young as the fifth most desirable restricted free agent.

Young continues to tantalize with his combination of versatility and athleticism. He can play both the 3 and the 4 but is more comfortable at power forward.

While it's tough to gauge whether he's a potential star given his supporting role with the team, he'll get a nice offer from someone. The Sixers have some financial woes, which means they may not be able to afford to lock him up. He could join [Jeff] Green as one of the few players on this list that changes uniforms this year.

(If you're not familiar with the way restricted free agency works in the NBA, refer to the great Larry Coon's Salary Cap FAQ.)

With all the talk surrounding Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young's terrific season has been overshadowed, along with his possible departure from Philadelphia. 

It's easy to see why Thaddeus will appeal to many suitors this off-season. He's playing the best basketball of his career, he's versatile, he's reportedly a great kid with a great work ethic, and he's only 22 years old. The question is, how much is Young worth in the open market, and how much is he worth to the Sixers? 

I'd love to see Thad return to the Sixers, but only for the right price. If we're talking a contract similar to the one Lou Williams signed in 2008 (5 years, 25 million) I'm all for it, but if the asking price is anywhere near the 6 years, 80 million Andre Iguodala received in '08, I'd thank Thad for all he's done and pack his bags for him. 

If the Sixers were closer to contending and had a sure-fire superstar in place, I may be willing to overpay for Young, because I do think he can be a valuable piece. His ceiling on a championship contender is likely a super-sixth man (think Lamar Odom on the Lakers). His versatility and personality are adaptable to almost any team, and the fact that he doesn't need the ball in his hands, or plays run for him, is an added bonus. 

Speaking of Odom, he was in a similar situation eight years ago. Like Young, Odom was also a lottery pick in '99. Also like Young, Odom was a long, versatile big man with loads of potential. He was a 23 year-old restricted free agent in 2003, and although Odom was probably thought to have slightly more raw talent than Thad, Lamar had been saddled with injuries the two previous seasons. That didn't stop the Miami Heat from offering him a massive contract (6 years, 63 million), unmatched by his previous team, the Clippers.

(Check out this comp. of their fourth seasons, and this comp. of their first four seasons combined). 

If Odom's '03 contract is any indication of the offers Thaddeus will receive this off-season, the Sixers should let him walk, which begs another question: if the Sixers think Thad will walk this off-season, wouldn't it make sense to shop Young before he walks, leaving them with nothing?

I think so, but it appears the front office has their eyes on the 2011 playoffs and nothing further. In my mind, shopping Young is a better option than either, letting him walk for nothing, or overpaying him and plunging further into salary cap hell.


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