Yeah, this was intended for last night. I passed out on my couch about an hour after the game without finishing this. Both Young and Brand will come today. I apologize for the delay and for breaking my schedule.
Young wins the award for “Most Improved Player” on the Sixers this year*, despite putting up fewer points and having the same rebounding totals. For Young, the improvement comes in defense and efficiency, as his shooting percentage is one of the highest in the NBA and his defense, especially against bigs, has been reliable enough for Doug Collins to play him in crunch time at the “4” (and on rare occasion at the “5”).
* At this point you’ll probably note: What about Jodie Meeks? And you’re right, his numbers are all up across the board, mainly due to a surge in playing time though. On the court, Meeks does what he’s always done. His down numbers last year were a product of scattered playing time and a small sample.
Young’s best attribute is his athleticism, but what makes him effective is his left-handedness.# I’ll have more on this after the jump in the breakdowns, but let’s just say it makes him insanely tough to cover inside.
# Handedness, according to WordPress, is a word.
55.4% FG, 22.2% 3FG, 71.7% FT
Despite his high percentages, Thad’s shooting ability has actually regressed since last year. His shot is more inconsistent and his realistic range has dropped to around 18 feet and in.
His regression may be a good thing, though. Last year, I complained (and I’m guessing many of you have, too) that Thad took too many jumpers. This year, his shot has disappeared to some extent but has helped him to become much more efficient and effective, as he’s now playing more to his strengths, his speed and finishing ability around the rim.
Also, on another, meaningless note, I’m not sure how Thad is a 71.7% free throw shooter. It seems like he misses more free throws, though that number can’t lie.
12.6 PPG, 9.8 FGA, 2.2 FTA
Young is an amazing finisher around the rim, using primarily his left hand (though he can finish with his right). He has a nice arsenal of baby hook shots and uses the backboard very well inside.
But here’s where Young really capitalizes: in the NBA, when games are only one or two days apart, there isn’t much time for scouting opposing teams, especially ones that aren’t perceived as threats. Sure, scouting comes into pre-game preparation and clearly isn’t ignored, but players aren’t completely accounted for before games. Rarely, if ever, do opposing players try to stop Young from going to his left, since Young will ALWAYS go left if he can. On the rare occasion that he can’t, he usually passes it out or pulls up for a jumper.
Young is also a great “lane-filler” on fast-breaks, as most guys he’s matched-up with are slower and can’t keep up with him even in the half-court, let alone the fast break.
Passing and Ball-Handling
1.1 AST, 1.2 TO
Thad isn’t a guy who usually sets up teammates. When he puts the ball on the floor, he’s trying to score. He’s not looking to pass – and the Sixers don’t want him to, as the team has so many willing passers that they don’t need another. Turnover-wise, Thad averages fewer than I thought, since he seems to pick up a traveling call around once a game (but not as often as the old John Salmons palming violation – going a little old school here).
When not called for traveling on it, he has an explosive first-step. He just needs to “be quick, but don’t hurry,” as he’s faster than anyone that covers him anyway. His man-defenders (that is, the guys who cover him one-on-one) aren’t the guys who strip the basketball often, so that could be the explanation.
5.2 RPG, 1.8 ORPG, 3.4 DRPG
Thad still isn’t a great rebounder. Part of this is the surplus of defensive rebounding that this team has (with AI9, Evan, and Jrue all good defensive rebounders for their positions), while much has to do with Thad being an “energy rebounder”. I made that term up, but I mean to say that Thad just fights hard for boards, and doesn’t use fundamentals like a Kevin Love would use. He’s undersized but could still improve there. He does get a lot of put-backs and tip-ins on the other end.
1.1 STL, 0.3 BLK
Thad has gotten about 20 pounds heavier since this time last year, and that has helped him stand up to bigs. He’s part of the end-of-game lineups, lineups that Collins prefers to go with defenders in (although Lou Williams tries to buck that trend). He still struggles against guys with an extreme height advantage, but has done a great job using his quickness against larger, stronger opponents to generate steals. Thad’s not much of a shot blocker but he will take his share of charges.
The most improved part of Thad Young’s game has been his defensive rotations. He does a great job covering the paint on pick-and-rolls and rotating to open shooters. To be honest, Thad was so bad with defensive rotations last year that I thought he might be a lost cause defensively. For this improvement, I give equal credit to the firing of Eddie Jordan, Thad’s hard work, and Doug Collins and the current coaching staff – though I have no idea which of these was the dominant factor.