And then there was one. When the smoke cleared in the aftermath of the Sam Hinkie sell-a-thon on Thursday, Thaddeus Young was the only member of the Philadelphia 76ers' core left standing.
Logic (and salary cap concerns) suggested that Young wouldn't be dealt at the deadline. With a year left on his deal (plus a player option for 2015-16 that he'll likely opt out of) and pursestrings tight all around the league, the Sixers most consistent player was likely to stay in Philly the whole way.
Let's be clear: Thaddeus Young is still a Sixer today largely because of economics. He's a solid power forward with an above-average PER (17.2), a much-improved outside shot (51 three-pointers made this season), and length that has helped him to evolve into a decent help defender.
For what it's worth, Young also happens to be a first-class citizen off of the court as well as a veteran role model on it. If he was set to make $6.4 million next season instead of $9.4 million, the Sixers may not have even been pressed to include Young in any of their trade discussions over the past few months.
Thad Young weeps.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 20, 2014
Of course, there's still the matter of the now-infamous trade request submitted by Young's camp earlier this season. But somehow... amazingly... Thad will get over this. He's a 25-year-old multi-millionaire and a universally respected, world class athlete. Would he like to be on a team that is playing for playoff seeding instead of ping-pong balls? Absolutely. But all things considered, he's got a good life.
I just got really sad thinking about Thaddeus Young. (Good thing he makes $8 million a year.)— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) February 21, 2014
I've never been able to wrap my head around the notion that Thad deserves something better than the hand that he's been dealt. As a wise man said to me a few days ago, the only thing Young deserves is to have his paycheck deposited into his bank account every two weeks.
Many Sixers fans would like nothing but the best for Young because he's a consummate professional and good things should happen to good people. However, Young knew the inherent risks of being a lead dog on a bad team well before he signed his name to that five-year, $43 million deal back in December 2011.
That's not to say that the next eight weeks won't be tough. It's safe to assume that Young has at least a fair amount of competitive fire, and there won't be many too many marks in the win column when Elliot Williams logs 27 minutes a night as a starting shooting guard. It's hard enough for us to watch as outsiders -- imagine how it feels stepping on the court as one of the 50 best basketball players in the world and knowing that odds are, you'll lose by 20 points.
It won't be due to a lack of trying, though: The Sixers are loaded with guys driven to establish themselves as legitimate NBA players. Brett Brown won't ease up off of the gas pedal between now and April 16th, so we should continue to expect 100-plus possessions per night, despite the absence of Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner. Someone has to get those shots - why not Young?
Hinkie on @yungsmoove21: "I think his role will grow... We'll continue to lean on him as a leader and as a worker."— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 21, 2014
Hinkie: "There aren't many things that I talk about or Brett [Brown] talks about that Thad [Young] doesn't embody." #Sixers— Jason Wolf (@JasonChadWolf) February 21, 2014
In his first game as the Sixers' primary option of sorts, Young got 30 points (on 29 attempts), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 steals... in another loss. The Sixers' 10th straight.
If Hinkie decides to play the long game with his veteran power forward, Young could ultimately play a key role for a franchise that appears to be on the precipice of turning around its recent misfortunes. If the team decides to move Young around draft time, it'll come in the wake of him (briefly) being a focal point on offense for the first time in his career.
Either way, Young isn't exactly staring at a future full of hellfire and brimstone. There's no need to cry over Thaddeus Young's current station in life - there will be plenty of other things for Sixers' fans to shed tears over before this season is out.