Thaddeus Young: The Sixers Overlooked Rookie Standout

Thaddeus YoungAt 19-years-old Thaddeus Young is proving to be a true diamond in the rough for the Sixers.  Going into the season most people thought Thaddeus was two or three years away from really contributing.  No one really anticipated he would make much of an impact right away for Coach Mo.  Except Young of course.

As the 12th pick in the 2007 NBA draft with tremendous upside, there were still a few questions marks about Young:

  • Raw – Having played only one college season his game was undeveloped.
  • Tweener – Is he a SF or PF?
  • Strength – At 6’8, 215ish coming out of college he needed to get bigger and stronger to handle the tough play inside and become a better rebounder.
  • Outside shooting – Considering how much he plays on the perimeter his shot needed to improve.

Those doubts just fueled Thaddeus Young’s desire to get better.  Young has quietly crept up among the top rookies this season.  This emergence was best noted by John Hollinger in his All-Sleeper Team: These guys deserve your attention article on ESPN insider:

Any time a teenager has a PER above the league average, we really ought to pay attention to it. Young has been way, way, WAY under the radar because he comes off the bench on a bad team, but the 19-year-old forward is having a noteworthy rookie season. The lefty can put the ball in the hoop (15.3 points per 40 minutes) and rebounds extremely well for a small forward [8.8 rebounds per 40 minutes] — so well, in fact, that he’s often used at the 4.

He still needs to figure out a lot of things, like how to draw fouls for instance — his rate of free throws is scandalously low for a player with his athleticism. Nonetheless, Young is one of the league’s most promising young players, [ranking first among rookies in PER], and he’s received virtually no attention so far.

It’s easy to overlook, but the Korver trade did more than just free up additional cap space this summer.  More importantly, moving Kyle made way for Thaddeus Young to get more minutes.  From Stefanski’s point of view this was probably to evaluate him in the context of the Sixers current and long-term personnel situation.

In 23 games since Korver’s been gone, Thaddeus Young has doubled nearly all of his numbers with the added playing time (while his TOs remain under 1/g):

Thaddeus Young

MPG

FG%

3P%

FT%

RPG

APG

SPG

BLK

TO

PPG

Before Korver Trade

10.6

48.8%

0.0%

60.0%

2.6

0.3

0.6

0.1

0.9

4.2

After Korver Trade

23.0

53.4%

33.3%

75.9%

4.8

0.9

0.8

0.2

0.9

8.5

When you combine Young’s rapid development, relentless hustle, smart play and athleticism, it’s clear the Sixers have an impact player in the making.  Although he is currently starting at the power forward, I think he is the small forward of the future for this team.  Here’s why…

  • At 6’8, 220 lbs Young is the prototypical size for an NBA small forward.  Add another 10-15 pounds of muscle to his athletic frame and guess what you have?  A body type very similar to Lebron James.  At that size he will be able to guard the 2 through 4 positions, become a much stronger rebounder and finisher after contact, as well as be more effective playing the PF on offense when the Sixers go small.
  • What does that mean for Andre Iguodala?  Options.  First and foremost sit Willie Green down, if not get rid of him entirely.  Move Iggy to the shooting guard spot and now you have a bigger guard to overcompensate for a smaller PG.  This makes the Sixers much better defensively overall but especially on the perimeter.  Better rebounding team as well.  Worst case scenario you have an up-and-coming replacement if Stefanski decides not to overpay for Andre Iguodala (more on this in a future post).
  • This would solidify the perimeter (as long as we “keep Andre Miller”) so Ed can work on what we really need which is a consistent scoring force inside.  Can you say Elton Brand?  Josh Smith?  How bout Michael Beasley?  Even if it isn’t one of those guys, it allows Stefanski to focus solely on that major hole at PF.  

More love for Thaddeus Young

David Thorpe recently took note of Thaddeus Young’s improved play in his latest Rookie Watch:

No player has surprised me more thus far than Thaddeus Young. ACC coaches told me he was a long way from being a pro. But Young’s instincts to play inside and out are sound (and somewhat rare), and he shoots with a beautiful pace. Golfers talk about the swing speed of Ernie Els — smooth and easy — and that’s what I think of when I watch Young shoot his jump shots. Not rushed, not slow, just right. He’s not yet a good shooter, but he’s coming along. He’s now up to [first] in player efficiency rating among rookies.

It’s about time people are finally starting notice.

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15 Responses

  1. nice post. Thad is a real player in this league.

  2. Yeah Thaddeus is really coming on, besides Durant and Odeni think he has the most upside out of all the rookies this year. He shoulda bee in the rookie game, hes the youngest player in the NBA.

  3. Thad is also one of the tops in the league in adjusted +/-:
    http://basketballvalue.com/topplayers.php?year=2007-2008

    and with a bunch of searching appears to be top rookie in Win Produced / 48 min (WP/48):
    http://www.winsproduced.com/teamstats.php?team=phi?page=?page=?page=

  4. Did Billy King draft him ? If not does this mean the new GM (who?) is any good or at least better than Billy?

  5. Yes Billy King did draft Thaddeus Young. One of his better picks for sure. But Ed Stefanski is suppose to be very good at evaluating talent and drafting. So we will see this summer.

  6. Ed stefanski seems like he knows what hes doing. Thad has been playing great since getting into that starting role. We need a good PF to contend. I say trade Andre Miller now before its too late. Stock up on picks whatever. I’ve been gettin crazy on the ESPN trade machine.

  7. I think you’ve gotta be prepared to let Andre walk. If you waste all your cap space on the guy it’ll be another five or six years of mediocrity. Get him at the right price and you’ve got Williams, Iguodala, Young, Smith, and other shmucks to build around–not too shabby. Throw in a draft pick or two and a free agent signing and you’re back in the thick of things. But patience and money management will be the key.

  8. So Dannie, you’re saying bring back Billy King ? Just don’t let him have control of the checkbook.

  9. Mike – NO, what I am saying is even a blind squirrel (Billy King) finds a nut once in a while.

  10. I’d say there are three big concerns here:

    1. If, in two years, when these guys are coming into their own, we slide Iggy to the 2, and Thad Young to the 3, there is a serious lack of 3 point shooting between our 2/3 positions. Not good. I’m sure Thad will improve to the point where he can knock down threes…and Iggy can be a consistent 35 – 37% 3 pt shooter…but certainly not ideal. That said, I agree with Hollinger…Thad is a great talent, can slide in to play either the 3 or 4 positions, and if he had stayed his soph year at G-Tech, he would have been a lock for a top 4-7 pick in this year’s ’08 draft.

    2. Lou Williams. This is NOT a talent to build on. I don’t care how talented he is, how athletic he is, how flashy he can look, Lou Williams is not, nor EVER should be, a regular starter for the 76ers. That said, he is a great option to have, and I think he makes a perfect combo guard off the bench in a Bobby Jackson type role getting 25 mpg. But let’s not get confused and call this guy an incredible core piece to build around. Nice talent, but if he is ever our starting PG, we’ll be below .500 for a long time.

    If that’s true…and by the time Iggy and Thad come into their own, Andre Miller will be 35 or so…we might really want to think about drafting a project PG in this year’s draft with a late 1st round pick, or trying to get our hands on one of Memphis’ backups (Crittenton, Lowry…I especially love Crittenton) to be grooming someone in the meantime to eventually take the reigns. I’d love to be able to make a trade to get a 2nd, and later, 1st round pick this year to take a stab at a DJ Augustine or T. Lawson if either of them leave.

    3. Say we have a nice 1/2/3/5 core of Andre Miller, Iggy, Thad and D-Bert, where we sign Iggy to a reasonable deal in the $12 million range (which is 50/50 in itself…he’ll want $15+ probably) and as Hollinger said “Can now only concentrate on the gaping hole at PF”…I’m worried.

    Why? Well, say we strike out this year on free agency, and with our $12-14 million of cap space can’t land either Elton Brand or Emeka Okafor…likely, as the Clips and Bobcats can overpay them both FAR more then we can because of Bird rights. That means we’re relying on the draft for a mega PF…except, guys like Beasley, Patrick Patterson, Donte Green, Kevin Love, etc will probably all be going top 8…and with the way we are playing, our pick, again, will probably be in the 8-13 range this year.

    This means we have to PRAY that there is a massive exodus of frosh/sophs in this years draft so that one of these talents can slip a little farther then they should. For now, the best sleeper PF pick in the country that’s flown completely under the radar: Alabama’s Richard Hendrix…6’10 beast in the paint, 10+ rebounds per game, tough, back to the basket game.

  11. Dave – there are a lot of what ifs with this team right now and going forward. We plan to cover a lot of them in upcoming post as the season progresses.

    I agree Lou Williams is not a starting PG on a Finals caliber team and its likely he won’t be in the future either. With that said, no one can predict with 100% certainty which direction his development will take him. That is why I love the NBA we can be pleasantly surprised.

  12. Thanks for the reply Dannie. I actually disagree though…I think we CAN be 100% about Lou Williams progress in the NBA.

    Let’s look over some of his attributes:

    –He’s 6’2. At that height, in the NBA that means one of two things at the highest possible level: You can be a starting PG, or a great 23-28 mpg combo guard off the bench. Period. Why do I say this instead of being more open minded?

    Because 6’1 – 6’3 two-guard scorers are pretty much a dime a dozen. We could probably make a list of about 100 truly AMAZING college players in the past decade that were 6’1 – 6’3 SG’s…that all either would never make the NBA, tried and failed (i.e.: Troy Bell), are now playing in Europe because their tweener-ness didn’t translate well (i.e.: Louis Bullock), or are nice combo guards off the bench that step in and score (i.e: Eddie House) or step in to play either position (i.e.: Bobby Jackson, Delonte West).

    Who are literally the ONLY two people to rise above this trend for more then 2 years straight? Allen Iverson, and Gilbert Arenas. These guys are so talented and in such rare air that it’s almost silly to assume anyone can achieve their status. Cuttino Mobley might be the only other 6’2 – 6’3 SG to survive in a starting lineup consistently…and amazingly, Monta Ellis seems to be so talented he might also enter the AI/Arenas category. But everyone else…Leandro Barbosa…will NEVER be a consistent successful SG. Ben Gordon is already finding this out. And Lou Williams is definitely in this category of “will never be a capable 2 guard because of his height”, plain and simple.

    Why can’t he maybe someday grow to be a starting PG then? Because passing is not an innate gift that comes naturally to him. He’s already proven he’s not a pass first PG. Has he gotten better at passing? Hell yes. Is he committed to learning the game and grow his IQ more? Yup.

    But take another similar type of talent…a 6’2 monster offensive player with a gift for scoring, that did a very admirable job in changing his game around, and learning the passing/PG duties well enough to start. His name? Mo Williams, Milwaukee Bucks. Completely changed his game from an undersized SG/shoot first PG…to that of a capable starting PG that will probably always average around 15-18 ppg, and 6.5 – 7 asts.

    What’s the problem with a Mo Williams? Types like that don’t win. Never have, never will. He might be a great scorer, put up great stats, but a guy that has “learned” to pass more, still always brings a shoot first mentality, and it effectively stunts the growth of any up and coming basketball team looking for chemistry. Jeff McGuiness is another example…great scoring PG that slowly learned the PG game well enough to start…but a guy that you’d never actually want running your team long term.

    If it’s a choice between “settling” for a guy that could improve to the point of a Mo Williams…vs. keeping an older vet that does “get it” like Andre Miller…or drafting a new guy with potential to be a true PG from college…I’ll always choose the latter instead of settling for a guy to max out as a Mo Williams type of PG. It’s the most important position in the NBA…we should not settle on Lou as the starting future PG.

    That said, I think he could be in the running for a 6th man award winner, and an amazing sparkplug off the bench for a decade straight.

  13. Dave – I don’t disagree with you, in fact I stated it was likely Lou would just continue on as a combo guard off the bench and I am great with that option. But I will never agree with anyone contesting to 100% certainty that’s just not realistic. More importantly I will never allow that type to thinking to ruin a truely amazing aspect of sports for me – the unexpected.

    I love the Sixers and considering how they have struggled the past few years optimism is what keeps me going strong. My optimism will of course be tapered by the understanding of probability, but nevertheless the hint of unpredictability is really why fans love sports. If we knew with 100% certainty the outcomes of various situations and player performance how exciting would that be?

  14. […] Can you say BULLSHIT.  If you need a refresher on why he should have been playing Friday night check this out.  Who would I replace for Young?  Jeff Green.  He has been nothing short of mediocre considering […]

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