The San Antonio Spurs' recent sign-and-trade deal that sent DeMar DeRozan to the Chicago Bulls was generally well-received by Spurs fans. While the main draw of that deal was the three draft picks that the Spurs received in return, an underrated aspect of the trade was the inclusion of veteran power forward Thaddeus Young.
Young is coming off a strong season in which he averaged an impressive 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and a career-high 4.3 assists in just 24.3 minutes per game. He also shot a career-high 55.9 percent from the field.
The additions of Young and Doug McDermott provide the Spurs with two solid options at power forward next season. Young, in particular, could have a strong impact on an increasingly younger roster following the departure of veterans Rudy Gay, DeRozan, and Patty Mills. At age 33, he has played 14 seasons and has appeared in more than 1000 games. With that level of experience, I believe that Young could provide a much-needed veteran presence.
Next season will likely have its fair share of ups and downs and having a player who's been around and been in many different situations could provide a valuable perspective to a young team. That said, his value isn't solely limited to veteran leadership.
Young will also be able to tangibly help the team on the court. While he's unlikely to start due to his lack of 3-point shooting, his ability to facilitate, rebound, and score in the paint will serve the bench unit well. Young will likely play alongside the likes of Bryn Forbes, Lonnie Walker, and Devin Vassell, and his skills can help bolster the newly-constructed bench.
Young will be a Swiss Army knife for the San Antonio Spurs
At 6’8", Young is comparable in size to former backup power forward Rudy Gay, though their styles of play differ drastically from one another. While Gay’s game is perimeter-oriented, Young does most of his scoring inside the arc and was much more efficient as a result.
As a member of the Chicago Bulls, Young found several ways to score effectively despite only connecting on 26.7% of his 3-point attempts last season. A few such ways were to attack the basket off the dribble by using jab steps, pump fakes, and a quick first step to blow by his defender.
He is also an effective scorer as the roll man in the pick and roll. Young would often slip screens, making it easier for the ball handler to find him as he cut to the basket. Finally, in one-on-one situations, he can bully his way to the rim, hit a soft floater, and post u on smaller defenders. All in all, he's a very versatile scorer that has only dipped below the double digits (per game) in his first season in the NBA.
While his ability to score is certainly an asset, his passing is equally if not more valuable. He thrived as a playmaker in the second unit last season and could be even better in San Antonio. With San Antonio’s two best bench players now gone, coach Popovich could use him as a secondary facilitator in the same vein as Boris Diaw.
After all, Young was such a good passer last season that his 27.1 assist percentage would have ranked second behind only DeRozan had he played for San Antonio. He displays excellent court vision and should be able to find shooters like Forbes, Walker, and Vassell for open threes when rolling to the basket. Additionally, he’ll be able to find cutters for easy baskets when in the post or out on the perimeter.
When factoring in his defensive versatility, including the ability to guard bigger players, Young could even toggle between backup power forward and backup center. His ability to do so would allow Popovich the option to play him beside Drew Eubanks or Zack Collins as the power forward, or beside Luka Samanic as the center depending on the matchup. It also means that he could close some games playing small-ball center with DeJounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Keldon Johnson.
Despite having been included in the DeRozan trade to match salaries, Young is a useful player who can definitely help the Spurs next season. He's played for five teams over the course of his long career and managed to carve out a role everywhere he's gone. Therefore, given his unique skill set and his experience, I believe that he'll prove himself to be a perfect veteran for this Spurs team.