3. Trae Young’s questionable fit with Sixers’ core
The current wave of criticism lambasting Young in advance of Atlanta’s looming early exit is probably overblown. Young remains an elite offensive engine, a brilliantly creative playmaker who can torch drop coverage out of the pick-and-roll or beat switches with his miraculous perimeter shot-making.
Young and Embiid fit on paper. That duo would be difficult to stop for many of the same reasons Embiid and Harden are hard to stop. The primary difference would be Young’s age (he’s only 24) and his aggressiveness, which far exceeds Harden at this stage in the elder’s career.
That aggressiveness could serve as a double-edged sword, however. The Sixers would certainly love for Harden to carry a bigger scoring burden every now and then, but Harden is willing to defer to Embiid — often smartly, as Embiid is arguably the best one-man offensive machine in the NBA. Would Young be similarly willing to defer and spend more time off-ball after years of dribbling the air out of the ball in Atlanta? Harden faced similar questions upon his arrival in Philly, but Harden had already begun the process of gracefully transitioning into a new post-prime era. Young is still in his prime and more than happy to operate as the head of the proverbial snake.
The fit concerns crop up big time if the Sixers successfully retain Harden. Between Harden and Young, the perimeter defense concerns would be plentiful. Embiid is an elite defensive backstop but he can’t give 100 percent effort for the entire regular season and even when he does give 100 percent, he can only cover so much ground.
If the Sixers are forced to let Harden walk in free agency, then Young makes more sense. But even then, you’re either pairing him with Maxey (two small guards and similar defensive concerns) or getting rid of Harris and Maxey, which leaves the roster much shallower than before.
And, again, the defensive concerns tied to Young are no mere side note. He’s an easy target for smart offenses, especially in the postseason. Philadelphia already struggles to contain guards at the point of attack; Young would increase those problems tenfold.
These fit concerns, tied with the financial complexities of acquiring Young, make it extremely unlikely that the Sixers would be willing or able to acquire the Hawks’ All-Star point guard if he ever becomes available.