2019 NBA Free Agents: Thaddeus Young
Though he feels like he’s been around forever, Thaddeus Young is still solidly in his late prime as he heads into free agency at a just-turned 31 - being a productive NBA player since the age of 19 will do that for you. Seemingly a forebear of the modern NBA, succeeding as a 6’8” power forward in the Association long before it became en vogue, Young might find himself somewhat marginalized on the market as he lacks the preeminent skill of today’s game: three point range. A savvy team will find a spot for Young, undoubtedly, and possibly at a better price than they thought possible.
Regular Season Stats: 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, .527 FG%, .349 3P%, 1.9 S+BPG
An active defender with good lateral mobility, Young rarely finds himself switched into bad match-ups, and is at little risk of being targeted on the defensive end. Has some awareness as an interior passer, putting up the second-highest assist mark of his career last year. Plays within himself, and though subsisting on a diet of two-point shots, picks them wisely, having his highest shooting percentage inside the arc of his career in 2018-19, leading to higher than average efficiency ratings. Very dependable, having played fewer than 70 games only twice in twelve seasons, and more than 75 in eight, including 81 in each of the last two; if you have Thaddeus Young on your team, he’ll be suiting up.
Not a great three point shooter -- a real black mark in today’s NBA -- but not a great rebounder either. Usually a power forward is either really good in the paint or is stretched out beyond the arc, and Young is neither, operating in a gray area that makes him unique in the NBA, but not really in a good way. Despite starting for nearly his entire career, and averaging over 30 minutes per game, has never averaged 20 points or 10 rebounds per game, nor made an all-star team; as he enters his thirties, is unlikely to make the leap to a player who can do any of the three.
While someone might still look at Young and see a starter, he’s more likely to find success being the first big off the bench as his career shifts into a new phase. His unorthodox approach still plays in the modern game -- perhaps because he is so unlike other power forwards, opposing teams still don’t quite know how to play him. He would be an excellent sixth or seventh man for a team with designs on a deep playoff run -- almost overqualified to be the first wave of reinforcements off the bench. Almost.
Possible Landing Spots:
If Denver doesn’t bring back Paul Millsap in any capacity, they could look for Young to fill a hole in their frontcourt as a bridge starter to the Michael Porter Jr. era. Young in some ways is a bit of a Millsap-lite, and would definitely succeed if he went West, especially as he has played all but half a season in the East, and they would be even less familiar with his singular style.
Should Young prefer to stay in the East, he might find a suitor in Boston, pending exactly how the Al Horford situation plays out. If Jayson Tatum finds himself in a starting role at the ‘four,’ Young would be a good, drama-free presence to add to the locker room, providing some stability after their season on the edge.
Now that Harrison Barnes has (mildly inexplicably) decided against exercising his $25.1 million player option, Young could be an excellent veteran option to come off the bench behind Marvin Bagley III in Sacramento. They’d be able to afford him and a few other good pieces, with three of their four highest salaried players coming off the books this offseason.
Dallas has a lot of space as well this summer, and Young is in some ways the quintessential Mark Cuban fallback signing: good but not great, won’t put you over the top but won’t break the bank. If higher-profile acquisitions don’t materialize, Young could easily head down to Texas.
A player on the wrong side of thirty who’s at least moderately dependent on his athleticism is not going to break the bank, and I expect with the exception of an oddly structured, declining deal, Thaddeus Young’s days of making $10+ million are through. Though he topped out somewhere in the ‘above-average’ range, Young has still made over $100 million playing basketball, so he can afford to be a little choosy in where he completes his prime, and prioritize winning over every last cent.
3 years and $24 million dollars would be a sound investment by a number of teams.