If you asked the casual NBA fan about Thaddeus Young, chances are they would tell you that his career had to be winding down. But believe it or not, Young is still just 28 years old, firmly in the middle of what is considered the prime for an NBA player.
However, because he had been 19-years old for all of a week when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him in 2007, he’s entering his 10th year in the league, and it seems like he’s seen everything, except a true chance at contention.
During his days with the Sixers, Young started out as a valuable player on an effective bench unit that eventually evolved into the “Night Shift”, featuring Young, Lou Williams, and Evan Turner. Thad was the guy who did all the little things that don’t get the press clippings: scrapping for loose balls, making deflections defensively, taking charges.
Eventually, as the team parted ways with higher profile guys like Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, Young assumed a larger role on the team. The ill-fated Andrew Bynum trade led management to bring in Sam Hinkie and initiate the Process.
But even as the team’s record dwindled, Young was the consummate professional, working hard every night on the court and causing no ripples off of it. Naturally, he was considered too good to keep around if the team was truly going to bottom out, and the Sixers dealt him to Minnesota during the 2014 offseason.
The consensus among Philly fans was to be happy for Thad, that he had escaped the 19-win Philadelphia team from a season ago and was going to a Timberwolves team with playoff aspirations. In a twist, though, Minnesota ended up with a worse record than Philadelphia that season, and to expedite their own tanking efforts, the Wolves dealt Young to the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline.
Despite being in a Brooklyn situation that pre-Sean Marks could charitably be considered “lacking hope”, Young remained ever the good soldier. He signed a four-year deal with the Nets, mentioning his desire that Brooklyn could provide a new environment of stability for his family:
“I could’ve waited it out and played out the last year of my contract. But my wife [Shekinah] and kids, they love it here, so I would rather just get something worked out sooner than later, and I think the biggest thing was just getting my kids settled, because my son T.J. [age 5] is just starting school this year, so that was the main objective to just get him settled.”
Those comments are depressing with the hindsight that just nine months later, Young and his family would be on the move again to Indianapolis. Hopefully, though, with the Pacers, Young has found a place with the best of both worlds: somewhere he can stick around for years to come, while also playing meaningful basketball into late April and May.
Setting aside a late fourth quarter collapse Friday night to Young’s (possibly not that terrible?) former Nets squad, the Pacers should be in the running to be among the top half of Eastern Conference playoff teams. Like clockwork, Young is putting up the same solid numbers as ever through two games: 15.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, with all the intangibles to boot. On the Ringer earlier this week, Danny Chau brought up the versatility in the Pacers frontcourt provided by Young, Paul George, and Myles Turner:
“The Pacers, in effect, have three power forwards in their starting lineup with maximum screen-switching potential, and complementary skill sets. George is as classic a wing as you’ll find in the league, but his physique means he won’t get punished easily if he’s matched onto a burlier opponent; Myles’s ability to operate in the high post gives Young the room inside to do what he is elite at, which is getting easy baskets around the rim on cuts; Young’s adroitness in defending the pick-and-roll means Turner can be the mobile rim protector nature intended him to be.”
While Indiana’s ceiling will ultimately be determined by the delineation for Paul George between star and superstar, and Myles Turner’s ascension from promising rookie to the type of guy capable of dropping 30 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, Young is a glue guy every contender hopeful needs. After a few years of leading a nomadic NBA existence, it appears that Thad has not only found a new team, he’s found a home.