When the San Antonio Spurs elected to trade DeMar DeRozan to the Chicago Bulls this summer, they landed themselves a nice return of picks and players. The protected first-round pick and multiple second-round picks they got in return were certainly appealing, it was the addition of Thaddaeus Young that really caught my eye.
In Thaddeus Young, the Spurs were getting one of the most versatile forwards in the game today. And before you call that hyperbole, let me just remind you of the rare air that Young is in. As ESPN was quick to remind us after the deal, Young and LeBron James are the only players with 1,000 career games who have averaged 13 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 1.4 steals per game, 50% on field goals, and 30% on threes.
Is it a nit-picked stat? Yeah, sure it is. But it does illustrate the variety of ways that Young can impact the game. He can post-up, he can shoot the three, he is a versatile defender, and boy oh boy can he pass.
Between Young and Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs have two of the better passing big men in the game. There should be no end of creative ways that Gregg Popovich can utilize them as facilitators from the post. Poeltl has missed some time in the league's COVID protocols but once he's back, I hope we get to see what he can do when he shares the floor with Young.
Should the Spurs still consider trading Thaddeus Young?
As intriguing as the possibilities would be, would it really be worth keeping Young past the deadline? Look at it this way, the Spurs have the fifth-worst record in the league. They're off to the worst start in franchise history.
Dejounte Murray, Poeltl, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson have all played well, but those four plus Young aren't carrying this team to the playoffs. And do we really think that what Young has seen thus far is going to be enough to convince him to return this summer when he's an unrestricted free agent?
The breaking point for me was the lopsided, downright embarrassing loss to Minnesota last week. I need someone to explain to me why Gregg Popovich elected to only play Young for four minutes that night. Seriously, explain it to me like I'm five. You've got a swiss army knife of a big man sitting on the bench while you roll out five guard lineups and play Drew Eubanks for 21 minutes. It's inexcusable. If you're not going to play him, trade him to someone who will.
It shouldn't be hard to find a suitor. The Suns were rumored to be interested, Charlotte could be an intriguing trade partner, and the upstart Washington Wizards could bolster their frontcourt and their position in the Eastern Conference with the addition of Young. If the Spurs want to find a good deal for Young's expiring contract they won't have to look hard.
There's no debating that Thad Young can help the San Antonio Spurs. But help them to what, exactly? A fringe lottery spot rather than a position in the top-five of what looks to be a fairly strong draft class? Not exactly a compelling argument given the Spurs roster right now. It's time for the Spurs front office to do the right thing and flip this contract for picks while they still can.