Free agent forward Thaddeus Young may be able to provide the San Antonio Spurs with the hustle, energy and leadership they need to hit the next level.
Widely known for his motor, defensive instincts and constant activity on both ends of the floor, power forward Thaddeus Young brings a lot of skills to the table that would be of service to the San Antonio Spurs.
As a versatile wing with the ability to switch between guards, forwards and centers on defense, Young could match nicely with a Spurs lineup that ranked 20th in defensive rating through the 2018-19 regular season.
Young just capped the final year of a four-year, $54 million contract that earned him roughly $13.8 million in this past season. He’ll enter his 13th season in the NBA at 31-years-old with 51 games of playoff experience under his belt and a chip on his shoulder following the Indiana Pacers’ first-round sweep at the hands of an invigorated Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics.
Indiana has an opportunity to go big game hunting in the offseason, considering their crop of expiring deals and cap flexibility heading into the Summer. They may opt to move on from Young as the team moves in a younger direction, which could bode well for general manager R.C. Buford of the Spurs.
In his third season as a Pacer, Young put up 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game on a 55.7 percent effective field goal percentage. He made 56.4 percent of his two-point field goals, 34.9 percent of his threes and 64.4 percent of his free throws. These aren’t the kinds of stats that jump off the box score, but he gives an earnest effort every time down the floor.
Considering their limited money pool on the free agent market and need for two-way intensity off the pine, Young could be a solid fit with the Spurs as currently constructed.
Next: Bringing some toughness and hustle off the bench
Bringing some toughness and hustle off the bench
Whether it be Jaren Jackson, Bruce Bowen or Manu Ginobili bringing mental and physical toughness to the table, the San Antonio Spurs have simply been better when they have some physicality on their roster. This is not to say that the 2018-19 Spurs were soft, as the physical nature of their playstyle made them a tiring opponent for the opposition to deal with.
Still, the Spurs lacked a certain level of intensity that is often required from a serious playoff contender. Adding Thaddeus Young to the roster immediately boosts the team from an athletic and physical standpoint. Standing at 6-foot-8 with a long reach and left hand-dominant playstyle, Young has proven time and time again that he’s not one of shy away from contact.
San Antonio struggled to force turnovers, ranking dead last in steals per game during the regular season. This is an area that Young can seriously help with, considering his 25.2 steal percentage in the regular season this year. He’s a poised veteran player with a lot of experience to boast, so Young has become adept at stripping opposing bigs of the ball near the basket while intercepting passing lanes nicely.
His shot blocking leaves something to be desired, but not for a lack of effort. Since the power forward is often stretched away from the basket in the modern game, Young has to work harder and smarter for his blocks nowadays. If he were to be inserted to the Spurs lineup, both LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl would remain the primary rim protectors with Young working off the ball to make his opponent uncomfortable.
In what could be considered a down year for Young as an individual defender, he posted a 46.7 percent defensive field goal percentage in the regular season. Coming from a team like Indiana where both scoring and defending are emphasized as a team activity as opposed to an individual’s responsibility, Young could have an opportunity to thrive in the silver and black.
Next: Focusing in on Young’s skills
Focusing in on Young’s skills
One thing that remains consistent for the Spurs and their newly acquired talent is the emphasis that Gregg Popovich puts on getting his players in the best possible position to succeed. From an early stage in their own research, Pop and his staff ensure that a player will adapt to their system by studying their shot selection and figuring out what makes each player tick.
Watching Rudy Gay knock on the front door of a 50/40/90 season could attract a player like Young to the Alamo City. Although he’s not the most efficient scorer, Young showed glimpses of some a gifted offensive skill set this past season with franchise star Victor Oladipo going down midway through the year. This forced other players to step up and take on a scoring brunt in his absence, so Young showed up when his team needed him.
According to his tracking stats on NBA.com, Young performs best when he doesn’t have to dribble. This isn’t a knock against his ball handling skills, considering he has a great feel for moving around the floor with the ball in his hands, but he tends to connect on shots more easily when someone else is setting him up. The same goes on three-pointers, where he shot 17.6 percent better on catch and shoot opportunities than on pull ups.
Another trend to consider is that Young is a much better three-point shooter when he gets his looks early into the shot clock. With distributors such as DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in the ranks, the Spurs should be able to get him into his spots for quick jumpers if he were to sign in free agency.
San Antonio could turn Young into a serviceable Three-and-D asset while empowering him to continue with the defensive activity, expert rebounding and athletic playmaking that he’s focused on throughout his career.
Next: Fitting in with the current roster
Fitting in with the current roster
It’s unlikely that a team will offer Young the same kind of money he made in his first deal, so the Spurs’ mid-level exception of roughly $9 million might be enough to draw him away from Indianapolis. That combined with the promise of joining a championship organization as they build their next contender creates an interesting narrative for free agents.
Young would need to accept that this is a bench role, filling in between 20-30 minutes per night while sharing the power forward position with both LaMarcus Aldridge and Davis Bertans.
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San Antonio may look at him as a small ball center in certain lineups when Poeltl and Aldridge are resting, especially if they start alongside each other. There’s no word on the future roles of Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu, but he may need to compete with them for minutes as well.
Although the youth movement on this current roster is strong, these Spurs are a perfect blend of seasoned veterans and rising talents. Thaddeus Young could slot in with the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay nicely in slower lineups while picking up the tempo and pushing the fast break alongside Dejounte Murray and Derrick White.
Even if he doesn’t completely transform the team, Young can help push the pace in ways that no other power forward on the current roster could with his hustle, verticality and attention to detail.
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From his postgame interviews and interactions with media, Young seems to be a level-headed individual with an innate passion for the game that would align well with this team. The Spurs need players that play hard and leave it all on the floor and Young could be that guy.