Don't Forget How Valuable Young Can Be

by Kyle Ratke
Web Editor
@Kyle_Ratke

You’ve probably already heard. The Minnesota Timberwolves announced a blockbuster trade today in which they acquired the last two No. 1 picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

Chances are, though, they won’t even be the most productive player out of the group next season. That player could be combo-forward Thaddeus Young, who might be one of the most underrated players in the entire league.

In order to acquire Young, the Wolves gave up guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Not exactly a haul for a player of Young’s ability.

Young averaged a career-high 17.9 points per game last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, to go with 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game. For his career, the former Georgia Tech star is averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Young has been reportedly expecting a trade out of Philadelphia quite some time. The 76ers have been… adding draft picks and young players to build for the long-term future. Apparently they didn’t think Young fit in with their long-term goals. Last season, 76ers coach Brett Brown acknowledged many times that although he was constantly rumored in trade, Young came to work, worked hard and was a veteran presence for a team full of youngsters. That’s something that will only benefit Minnesota’s locker room.

With the future looking bright for the Wolves, Young might not seem like he fits with youngsters like Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Wiggins and Rubio. After all, Young will be entering his eighth season in the NBA.

Young is a sneaky-young, having just turned 26 in June. He appears to be a nice transition from the youth movement to veteran likes Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and newly-acquired point guard Mo Williams.

Obviously filling Love’s shoes is no easy chore. Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season. But many are quick to point out that Love was restricted defensively. Young is not the offensive threat Love is, but he did make 30.8 percent of his 3-point shots, which isn’t bad considering his position. He finished 10th in the league among power forwards with 90 3-pointers last season. His percentage also ranked 10th among power forwards who made 90 or more shots from deep. Young is a 50 percent shooter over his career.

His athleticism combined with Rubio, LaVine, Martin, Wiggins and Brewer could make for some pretty exciting fast breaks… With big Nikola Pekovic rumbling his way down the court behind them.

He’ll also be able to mentor Bennett, who had a rough rookie season in Cleveland. Bennett, like Young, is considered undersized at 6’8.

Where he’ll really help the team is on the defensive side of the ball. His 2.11 steals per game ranked best among power forwards (it wasn’t really close, Paul Millsap was second with 1.74), and he was third in the league behind Chris Paul and Rubio. Having Rubio, Young and Brewer (his 1.85 steals per game ranked seventh in the league) on the floor at the same time will close off passing lanes for offenses – something the team wasn’t able to do enough of last season.

Young is a bit undersized for a power forward, at 6’8, but he does have the ability to play both the small and power forward position. Just because he’s not tall, doesn’t mean that he can’t protect the rim. Young does have a wingspan of 6’11.5, which is impressive.

The thing that is most apparent of this trade is that the Wolves aren’t asking one playing to replace Love. It’s a team effort, and Young fits that mold. Head coach Flip Saunders has preached about getting two-way players on the squad and it’s no coincidence that Young ended up on this roster. Saunders likes what he can do on both sides of the floor.

“A perpetually underrated two-way player whose ability to handle multiple frontcourt assignments, contribute offensively without needing the ball in his hands and generally fill gaps,” wrote Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday.

With Young’s work ethic and ability to affect the game without having the ball in his hands, the Wolves found a valuable player who can lead on and off the court.

He might be the forgotten one of this trade. He’s not a prospect, but he is a player who has already proven himself in this league. There’s something to be said for that.

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