Defense: All Limbs and Effort
With all due respect to the outgoing veterans who undoubtedly provided offensive value and mentorship for the Spurs, they are not in the same stratosphere as Thaddeus Young on defense.
Though he’s lost a step at this point in his career, he still provides an incandescent blend of motor, instincts, length, active hands, and versatility that fits any defensive scheme — traits that also help him rebound well for being an undersized big in today’s game.
Young annually lives among league leaders in deflections and loose balls recovered at his position, and has a penchant for steals and chase-down blocks.
His energy did not go unnoticed last season. Young won the Hustle Player of the Year award in 2020-21, after finishing in the top 9 every year since it was created in 2016-17
Adding him to the Spurs’ budding defensive talent would cause havoc for opponents’ offenses, and would allow the team to boast more versatility while maintaining lineups featuring multiple plus-defenders with any combination of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, and Jakob Poeltl.
The myriad defensive contributions combined with his offensive value and positional flexibility are what separate him from last seasons’ Spurs veterans. And that’s not to say that those players are substantially worse than Young. It means Young is by far the better option to play alongside the young Spurs as they learn what it takes to win together because of his exceedingly useful, complementary skillset.
In fairness and acknowledging his age, maybe Young would like to take those skills to a contender where he could try to capture a ring in the latter stage of his career. His wife, Shekinah, has seemingly hinted that such a move would be preferable.
Young is on-the-record about almost retiring after the tumultuous Jim Boylen year in Chicago and wanting to spend more time with his family, so it feels like there are only a few years left for the Thad Young Experience.
The Spurs could reroute him to a surefire playoff team right now as the details of the DeRozan trade have yet to be finalized. Dealing him around the trade deadline is another option.
If there isn’t a destination that makes sense for Thaddeus Young at the moment though, San Antonio fans should be thrilled to root for one of the best veterans in the NBA.