Since Doug Collins took over as coach of the 76ers, Thaddeus Young has had a fairly consistent role as a spark plug off the bench. Young, who had started 138 games over the first 3 seasons of his career, has never started more than one game in a season under Collins. His minutes have fallen, from 34.4 per game his second year and 32 per game his third to 26.0 and 27.9 under Collins.
Yet, despite less playing time and a more limited offensive role, Young has been more effective when he's been out on the court. After having a very disappointing third NBA season under Eddie Jordan, Young has had back to back seasons that were arguably the best of his career. The limited offensive role has allowed him to stick to his strengths.
Now, with Andrew Bynum in the fold, does that allow Young to grow into a larger offensive role?
With the new-found front court depth, Collins is going to try playing Young more minutes at the small forward, something Collins had almost completely abandoned over his two seasons as coach of the 76ers.
'"This year I'm definitely going to play some 3 and some 4," Young said when I caught up with him at media day. "I'll be all over the place this year."
But is that the right direction to go? There are some obvious question marks with Young playing on the perimeter, most notably whether he can guard wings, his outside shooting and his ball handling.
"I'm very excited because of the simple fact that I get to play smaller guys a little bit," Young went on to say. "But it doesn't get easier. Those smaller guys are some of the all-stars in the league that I'm going to have to guard."
"I think [shooting] is part of my game that I've kind of expanded a little bit," Young said. "We've been playing pick-up and I've been shooting the ball very well."
Collins has cut down on Young's shooting from deep during his tenure as Sixers coach, which would have to change if Young plays substantial time at the small forward position. After attempting 302 three pointers during the 2 seasons before Collins arrived Young has attempted only 26 three pointers under Collins.
The move to the small forward is, in my opinion, the wrong direction. It appears influenced by the depth of the Sixers front court, with the team bringing back Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes and adding Kwame Brown to go along with the newly acquired Bynum. While the move would open up minutes for Allen, Hawes and Brown, it may limit the effectiveness of Young.
With a very good defensive rebounder and shot blocker next to Young, the main weaknesses Thad had that limited his effectiveness at the power forward can be hidden, to some extent. That should allow Young to extend his playing time and, with the attention Bynum will receive preventing weak side help defense, should enhance Young's face-up game, which was already a very tough cover for big men.
It also could help that Young looks considerably stronger. He claimed to be at 235 pounds, and looked to have improved his upper body strength over years past.
With Bynum, Thaddeus Young would have been a more effective power forward. Instead, they're going to try to put Young at a position where he won't have the same athletic advantage and where his lack of refined perimeter skills will become more prominent. To open up time for Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown and Lavoy Allen? I don't think that's worth the trade-off.
This will be something interesting to watch during preseason, when Collins is likely to give Young time defending Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, and other dynamic scoring wing players. How much time Young actually spends at the small forward position this coming season could be dependent on how well he plays during the preseason.
Myself, I think Young is best served playing almost exclusively power forward this year, and think it may be a situation where he can play close to starters minutes effectively.