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What to do with Thaddeus Young: A Ballad

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Happy Monday, cinnamon buns. Allow me to spin you a tale of mischief, menagerie, and missed jumpers on everybody's second favorite Thaddeus (#1): Thaddeus Young. It's been less than 12 months since 99% of us were drooling over what could become of the silky lefty two years removed from Georgia Tech. Seems like forever ago. Now, his role is that of a redundant tweener expected to play sparingly out of position.

Was last year no more than a coaching-induced slump? Is it possible that there's not much to him save for a few crafty post moves and a propensity to finish awkwardly in transition? Will Batman escape from the clutches of the enigmatic Riddler? Hit the jump for the answers to all of these questions.

Before we address Thad's future, I'd like to take a look at his three years here thus far and how our opinion of him changed. I'd like to acknowledge a few things on Thad's behalf first.

  • He's had three different head coaches in three years. Doug is his fourth.
  • He's still just 22 years old.
  • Anybody else remember March '09 before he went down with a sprained ankle? Picture_1_medium
  • He now has a son named TJ -- that's just more of an FYI.
  • He hit this shot over Dwight Howard in game 3 of the first round of the playoffs two seasons ago. (Aside: It feels like 25 years since the Sixers played a meaningful game.)

While his 3PT% has gone up each year, nearly every other statistical category has trended the wrong way. Offensive Rating down, Defensive Rating up (both of those are bad), eFG% and TS% down, PER down, Win Shares per 48 minutes down. Hoopdata gives great info about shot location and Thad's wasn't pretty -- he's hitting about a third of his shots away from the rim and less than 30% outside of 10 feet. His rebounding statistics were miserable to begin with but went up slightly from his second to third years because of more time at the power forward position. His Defensive Multiplier (dMULT) has skyrocketed to a grotesque 1.300 (according to Basketball Prospectus) after league average the previous year. And all of this while his usage rate has climbed from year to year.

Maurice Cheeks always used to talk about how good he was without having any plays run for him. Back then we thought that was a good thing and the coaches were fools not to give him some more touches. We had a young, cheap Lamar Odom on our hands. Last season, Thad went on record as being confused by a lot of the plays EJ was having them run, putting his basketball IQ into serious question. While that may have been overblown since Eddie Jordan was, in fact, a fully-qualified simpleton, it's never good to hear things like that.

Then we went on to draft Evan Turner with the missionWTF campaign and trade for Andres Nocioni this offseason. Add to that Doug Collins insisting that Thaddeus is a 4 and we're stuck in a bit of an odd situation. I'm sure he'll play a little small forward, but with Andre Iguodala, Turner, Nocioni, and Jodie Meeks hogging up the wing spots (and Jason Kapono and Willie Green playing with their Cabbage Patch Dolls on the bench), I don't know that there's a ton of minutes there for him. In the front court, he could backup Elton Brand, but a bunch of minutes should go to Marreese Speights and Spencer Hawes as well. It just seems like he's out of place. And in a contract year (along with Jason Smith and Hawes for Qualifying Offers), this isn't a great place to be in for number 21.

Without a consistent jump shot, average ball-handling ability, or the court vision of a point forward, he's just a guy that can score in isolation, and not all that well. He must become a better rebounder if he's going to be a 4 and develop a reliable shot outside of ten feet regardless of his position. I still feel like he's better suited as a three, but if he's bulked up and worked on defense this offseason, I could see him not being a complete liability on the other end.  He's always had a great reputation in the locker room and for his work ethic, but I can't help but feel he hasn't gotten better since leaving G-Tech as a freshman. He's making just under $3 million this season, which is fine for a 6th man. But when faced with the million dollar pay raise for next season's option, I don't know if Ed will shell out the cheese.

In my opinion, he has no long term future with this team with Andre still on the roster. And since Andre is the better player for now and, in all likelihood, forever, I'm inclined to keep him and try to deal Thaddeus before the deadline. While there's no guarantee Iguodala and Turner will fit together -- and don't make this thread about that please, we've all heard enough -- I'd be more confident fielding a winner over the next 2-3 years with that wing core rather than with Thad involved. If Young gets off to a hot start, wiping away scenes of his poor play from the minds of GM's around basketball (Kahn), it would behoove Stefanski to feel out the market for him, with a mid-first rounder not out of the question for a player with Thad's upside. If the market for Andre is high enough, ship him out for youth/picks and let Thad play 35 minutes a night alongside Turner for a contract.

I'm definitely wary of Ed getting cash-happy and lobbing 4-year deals to Spencer and Thad (and Jason?) just because he'd be lonely without them. In absence of a clear-cut plan in sight, how Collins and Stefanski handle Thaddeus Young this season will be as good an indicator as any as to what they intend to do over the next few years.