I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last month or so, but I didn’t feel that I could give the post justice without having a good amount of time to write it. So after the jump: why I was completely, totally, utterly wrong about everything relating to Thaddeus Young.
I’ve been a big supporter of Young, even though it may not seem like it. Why? Well, he happened to have loads of potential upon entering the NBA, and by all accounts is a nice guy.
Yet I supported the Sixers not offering Young a contract extension before this season started, since he had done nothing to indicate that he deserved an extension.
Well, what do I mean he didn’t deserve it? He averaged 15 points per game two years ago, and 14 last year. He’s only 22. He still has huge potential; I have said that repeatedly. But he had a lot of flaws. The last two years his defense ranked somewhere between awful and nonexistent. His ball-handling arguably regressed since his rookie year. His shooting percentages had also dropped over time, as he took too many jumpers. He was undersized as a PF and the perfect size for a SF, yet didn’t seem comfortable with playing on the perimeter.
While many argue that specific positions are mostly gone in the NBA (and I would agree), I always felt that Thad would only become a “star” player by becoming a perimeter guy. He needed to improve his shooting and ball-handling to get there, but his size and athleticism would be hard to match. While playing mostly against bigs, he could capitalize on mismatches and score pretty easily, but his lack of size would always hold him back from being great in that position. Here’s an example of my arguments about Thad Young’s play last season (from my old blog):
“…Young produced offensively, too, averaging almost 14 points in 32 minutes per game. He chipped in with 5 rebounds and more than a steal per game as well. So on the surface, getting that production from a 21-year-old small forward is fantastic. Usually, we’ll take that potential. But classifying him as a small forward in the time he played last season is inaccurate. He primarily played the 4, guarded bigger guys and was forced to rebound against them. While he played, he was the best offensive option at that spot while also the worst defensive option. He’s not a shot blocker – he only had 15 the entire season. His rebound rate was about one rebound for every 6 minutes, not good for a power forward. His defensive rotations were, well, terrible, resulting in too many open shots for opponents. So he had an impact on both ends of the floor – his good offense was matched by a negative defensive impact.”
In that last passage, I argued that Young could not be effective while playing against bigs.And for the most part, I was right. He flat out stunk while trying to defend bigs last year. Bigs out-muscled him all year long, yet he was consistently asked to defend them. Strangely enough, I didn’t like that.
Now I’m linking to a second passage from the same article (“On Thaddeus Young”)*, in which I criticize Doug Collins and his use of Thad as a power forward this season:
“I also believe that Doug Collins has misused Young more than any other player. Young finds himself in the same position as last year, playing more 4 than 3 and guarding bigger, stronger players. Originally, Collins made the impression that Nocioni would play the role of the smaller guy that would defend bigs. However, now with Nocioni in the starting 5, Young has resumed that role. Also, Young’s minutes have come primarily in the second unit, the Lou Williams unit. Young works best as a scorer, yet he’s usually in the game with our most dominant ball-handler. So even though he’s shooting 58% from the floor, Young averages only 9 points per game, not enough considering his responsibilities and performance defensively.”
*The similar title is not a coincidence.
Considering Young’s recent play, I would say that I had a good point: Thad only averaging 9 PPG is/was not good for the team. He needs to score to be effective, and the Sixers need his scoring to win games.
I’ve also written extensively about his ability to finish against slower bigs as opposed to smaller defenders. With Young, there’s seemingly no in-between, as he’s the definition of a “tweener”, a guy who’s too big for swing-men to handle but too small to match up great against bigger guys. Here’s an example of my ranting on this subject:
“Thaddeus Young looked good in blowing by Antawn Jamison time and time again. Young thrives in those situations, but I have to stress again that, if he can only take advantage of those opportunities to score, he won’t be an NBA starter.”
Well, I’m still partially right here. Young still isn’t an NBA starter, but has found a niche as a nice 6th man off the bench.
OK, I have to stop defending myself needlessly. I have never been more wrong about anything in the NBA than I have been about Thad.
- I have insisted time and time again that he would be most effective while playing on the perimeter. Fast forward to today: he has shot 18 threes on the year, still can’t handle the ball well, and routinely scores on bigger players.
- I have said multiple times that Thad was too small to defend bigger players. Well, as he’s gotten slightly bulkier he has been able to defend adequately against larger power forwards. Recently, he’s been the best defender the Sixers had against bigs in Memphis (vs. Zack Randolph) and Houston (vs. Luis Scola) using both his slightly larger size and his still-superior quickness.
- I may have thought Young did not deserve an extension, and I believe now that I was wrong. While averaging fewer points, he’s been more effective this year than in the last two, shooting over 55% from the floor and becoming a better defender. While economically it could work out for the Sixers (with the whole CBA thing), he could become tough to retain.
While I might have been wrong about everything though, I still hope Thad could become a much better player, and that he will become a star someday.