After a blazing hot 3-0 start, the Philadelphia 76ers are starting to do what many experts predicted they would at the start of the season: lose games. Considered to be one of the teams “tanking” for a better spot in this year’s star-studded draft, the 76ers (8-20) have been involved in plenty of trade rumors and scenarios. Come February 20—the NBA’s trade deadline—General Manager Sam Hinkie will have several tough decisions to make on whether or not to trade certain veteran players.
One of those guys will be power forward Thaddeus Young, whose name has been swirling most rapidly in trade rumors this winter. Several weeks ago, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that the Rockets and Sixers were talking a trade that involved Omer Asik, and many speculated that Thad Young was Houston’s primary target. Several even speculated that the 76ers could be involved in talks with Cleveland, although those rumors have since dissipated.
I, however, think that Sam Hinkie would do his franchise a disservice by trading the 25-year old—yes, Young is, despite his six-year tenure in the league, only 25 years of age. Why? There are several reasons to consider, both in terms of his production and how he fits into the Sixers overall plans.
First, let’s look at how well Young has played for Brett Brown’s squad so far this season. In 33.1 minutes per game, Young is averaging 16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. He is also shooting the ball at a 49.9% clip from the field and an incredible 44.0% from beyond the arc. He has been the 76ers most consistent scorer, with only three single-digit point totals all season, and has been extremely efficient doing it. His effective field goal percentage (eFG%), an advanced shooting statistic that takes into account the added value of a three-point shot, is 53.0%, higher than guys like Paul Millsap, Kevin Love, Tony Parker, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, and Damian Lillard (per MySynergySports).
Thad has also been one of the best, if not the best, defenders on the team. He has thrived in Brett Brown’s system where others have not. Opponents are shooting only 39% from the field against Young, and 33% from beyond the arc. They are also turning the ball over 9% of the time against him. These statistics are pretty good, but they are even more impressive when you take into account how often he has to make up for the mistakes of his defensively incompetent teammates and how those instances hurt his stats.
In fact, when teams isolate Young on one side of the floor, they are only scoring points 26% of the time according to MySynergySports.
So you have that: he has been productive for the 76ers this season, and at both ends. But in an organization that values the future, you also have to look at how No. 21 will fit into the equation going forward. Is he a guy the Sixers would be smart to keep around, even at $9 million/year over the next two seasons (per ShamSports.com)? The answer is a resounding “YES!”
First, keeping Young around allows Hinkie to address more pressing concerns in the draft. Instead of worrying about finding a big man who complements Nerlens Noel, he can focus on adding a shooting guard who can actually shoot and a scoring small forward. The latter will likely be found with the team’s first pick; I am thinking Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins. Finding a talented shooting guard with the Pelicans’ pick—acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade—should not be too difficult either.
Look how fine a starting lineup with Young could look: MCW – Mario Henzonja (2014 prospect) – Jabari Parker – Thad – Nerlens Noel
Thad has also already found chemistry with Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft. Young has been one of the NBA’s most effective pick-and-roll players in this season, scoring on 63% of possessions where he and MCW run the pick-and-roll. Carter-Williams is an extremely effective P-and-R player because of his size and length; teams have to respect his ability to finish even with a defender on his back, which makes the rolling big man even more dangerous because the defender cannot cheat away from MCW. That dynamic is just one of the areas in which Young has proven invaluable to Philadelphia’s offense moving forward.
Finally, we have to look at one of the most obvious—and often overlooked—benefits of keeping Thad around. Unlike Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, two trading chips with only one year left on their respective contracts, the 76ers will get to reap the benefits of Young’s value over the next two seasons. That will be when this team will actually be trying to win, so it makes sense to keep a player as valuable as Young around until his talent can be used to win meaningful games.
If the 76ers are trying to trade one of their veteran players to add draft picks or young talent, the last guy I would move if I were Sam Hinkie would be Thad Young. Not only has he been the most productive, but his long-term value to this franchise is also the greatest.
Those are just my thoughts on the situation. Let me hear yours by commenting below or by letting me know on Twitter!