Most compliments bestowed upon Thaddeus Young are of the backhanded variety. He's not smooth, but Awkwardly Smooth. When he tips in missed shots, he "turns garbage into gold", his offensive rebounding craft reduced to what sounds like a trait to admire in a vagabond. While Sixers fans aren't desperate for him to go, it's accepted by many that his head will be the last to roll from the previous regime, whenever Sam Hinkie sees fit to drop the King's Justice.
There should be more hesitation to part with Young for the sake of acquiring younger, sexier players. Hasn't he made a pretty good case for staying?
The impact of coaches and roster context is often cited as an excuse when prospects fail to develop (pour one out for all those lost in the bloody 2011 Battle of Turner-Meeks) and yet Young gets little pub for thriving under five separate coaches in seven seasons. He has watched management go Dr. Strangelove on the roster and played for a coach who likened the three-point line to an electric fence, making it work despite chaos around him.
People have praised him for what doesn't show up in the box score for so long that his tangible brilliance has been under-appreciated. His three point shooting fell off a cliff after a hot start, but he managed to become just the 11th different player to shoot 30+ percent from deep while averaging (ARBITRARY COUNTING STATS ALERT) at least 17.9 points, six rebounds and 2.1 steals over the course of a season. His peers in that group include a few guys you may have heard of, like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Nabbing a player on the level of that holy quartet is always the goal, but blog overlord Mike Levin made a relevant point in his draft chat with The 700 Level last week: having a top-notch role player is in many ways preferable to acquiring a flawed star. Thad is the former in every sense of the term, selfless in his sacrifice for the team's greater good.
It's possible that trading him along with the Pelicans pick to choose between the likes of Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh will prove to be the correct decision for all parties. The catch: trading Thad and the Pelicans pick to move up, the likely cost for such a transaction, is a steep price. Would the Sixers be better off going forward with Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, rather than Wiggins, Gary Harris and Thad?
This year's tanking brigade proved night after night -- depth matters. Hell, "Depth Matters" could have been the nameplate on the jerseys of every member of the bench past Tony Wroten and I'm not sure anyone would have noticed the difference.
As the team transitions from intentional abomination to marginally respectable, shedding one of the few valuable pieces they have feels counterproductive. Hinkie's Jedi mind tricks have procured a bounty of picks for the Sixers, but he's still trying to outrun the knees and trees of Andrew Bynum and Arnett Moultrie.
Thad represents a happy medium between the strip-it-down paradigm and the "winning culture" that some would claim is essential to successful growth. Fickle as emotional connections are amid a rebuild, the young veteran plays in a way that resonates with fans, coaches and executives alike. Watching him dive for loose balls against Miami's B team in a meaningless finale was bittersweet -- professionalism personified by someone who deserves better.
What's working against this is his contract. Thad can opt out after next season, and since he's already requested a trade, it's highly probable that he's still itching to not waste his prime playing for a rebuilding team. That's not an indictment on what the Sixers are doing or Thad's thought process, it's just a reality of this business -- Hinkie can think big picture for the Sixers, Thad can only think big picture for Thad. The odds of him opting out are strong. Getting something for him before it's too late is key.
There are no absolutes in team building. The dogged pursuit of young, controllable assets is a worthy cause, and most of us are here because we trust this regime to make the proper decisions when push comes to shove. If Hinkie sees a falling star he loves like he did in Noel, he has earned the leeway to move heaven and earth to bring him to Philadelphia, whether that does or doesn't include Thad.
Maybe it's because he is the Andy Dufresne to Philadelphia's Ellis Redding, the brightly-feathered friend we all know is too vibrant to be trapped with us in the asylum. But it's tough to resign to a future that doesn't include Thaddeus Young, a majestic man that could be the perfect bridge into a new era of Sixers basketball.