2013 Offseason

Pipe Dream: Thaddeus Young on the Wolves

Thaddeus Young

Recently, we at A Wolf Among Wolves have provided measured yet optimistic feedback and analysis of the Wolves’ draft night and free agency signings. I expect that kind of reasoned and balanced writing to continue through future signings and trades leading up to the season.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some wild-eyed dreams that probably won’t happen. In that spirit, I bring you Thaddeus Young on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Anyone who’s read a good amount of what I’ve written about basketball has probably noticed my fondness for Philadelphia’s smallball power forward. I wrote about him for HoopChalk. I wrote about him for the New York Times. To encapsulate what I wrote in those posts, he’s a plus-defender who finishes at the rim, rebounds well for his size, and can shoot (although he hasn’t shot the 3 much under Doug Collins’ regime in Philly).

So here’s the trade I envision: YoungTrade

Here’s the upside for Philadelphia: Their decision to move Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel on draft night seems to signal a desire to make some serious roster changes under new general manager Sam Hinkie. The braintrust over at Hoop76 seem to think that Young is the next guy out the door. The Sixers drafted Michael Carter-Williams—who has promise—but as of right now they have no veteran point guard on their team. Taking Ridnour gives them a stabilizing force at PG who also happens to be an expiring contract, ideal for helping them continuing the rebuild next year. Derrick Williams (defense aside) is similar to Young but also younger at just 22. Right now, he’s not nearly as good as Young, but it’s not entirely clear that Philadelphia even wants to be very good this year. Ridnour probably won’t win them many games, but he can help with MCW’s development, and Williams can continue to start at PF where he showed flashes this past season in Minnesota but where he won’t continue to start with Love’s return.

As for the Wolves, what they get in Young is a player in his prime (amazingly he’s still only 25) who has a defensive mindset and who is legitimately able to play both the 3 and the 4. A starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Thaddeus Young, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic will still not be defensively stalwart, but with Rubio’s ballhawking and Pekovic’s solid work on pick-and-roll defense, Young’s defensive acumen will plug a lot of holes plus give you a guy who’s quick and physical enough to challenge players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Young also opens up some intriguing smallball possibilities by sliding Love to the 5 and playing Budinger at the 3 and Young at the 4. Again, this lineup will give up points, but it’s a far better option than the same thing with Williams playing the 4. If this lineup could rebound effectively while scoring like it should be able to without being a complete defensive disaster, it could be a great way to keep Pek from playing too many minutes and forestall the injuries that have often curtailed his effectiveness.

Young’s 3-point shooting also poses some intriguing possibilities. Under Doug Collins, Young’s 3-point attempts dove into the cellar, but in his first three seasons—when he was looking for that shot—he was a respectable 34% shooter from the perimeter. That’s not going to light anyone’s hair on fire, but the most important part of his perimeter shooting is the possibility that in a system directed towards getting him those looks he can use it to get to the rim. His career true shooting percentage (which weights for 2-point vs. 3-point field goals and includes free throws) is a very solid 55% (better than Williams’ 51%) and his effective field goal percentage (which weights for 2-point vs. 3-point field goals) is 53% (a big improvement on Williams’ 46%).

What those numbers show is that Young has the ability to make good judgments about when to shoot and when to drive or move the ball along. (Incidentally, his career assists-per-36 average of 1.5 is more than just that many times better than Williams’ .9.) Getting Young would, in essence, give the Wolves what they should hope Williams might one day become: an athletic two-way player who can both finish and shoot and knows the difference between the two.

I have heard exactly zero rumblings about any communication between Philadelphia and Minnesota, so I have no reason to think this trade could ever happen. But a boy can dream.

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18 thoughts on “Pipe Dream: Thaddeus Young on the Wolves

  1. I would do this trade. A lot of talk about tanking for 2014 for a lot of teams I see your reasoning here. I’m in, it also solves the loss of Kirilenko problem. And we get a young guy under a decent contract back. Add to that the entire core of this team is signed for a couple of years (assuming Pek returns). I would like to see that.

  2. This is exactly the kind of trade they should make (trading one of their point guards and/or derrick Williams for this type of player. They first got to sort out their center situation. I do not know if they have to dump some salary in order to be able to sign Pekovic assuming they are still planning to sign Pekovich. My only comment on Thadeus is 8 mil for 4 years is a little much I would rather go for a 5 mil contract player or a player with a 2 year contract so they can resign ricky in 2 years.

  3. Know I feel bad and I have wasted so much time on the trade machine. I found no deal that I thought was even kind of acceptable.

  4. I like this trade… i have Dwill going to chicago for Deng what do you think about that trade

  5. well i have been thinking about this exact trade for some time, i am still not sure if sixers would do that as they could probably do better than this for a guy of Young’s caliber, but maybe adding well protected pick would get it done

  6. Deng’s a nice player as well, although his contract is bigger but expiring ($14.275 million). I can’t see how they can get Deng in a trade as far as the salaries go unless they give up Williams, Ridnour and Barea, which is a lot for a one-year rental. Deng is also 28, so three years older than Young. If you really think the Wolves are one player away from contending, then maybe you go after Deng, but I honestly like Young as a long-term investment. He’s not bad insurance if Love does indeed leave since you could play him consistently at the 4.

  7. I think trading D-Will is only dangerous if Love decides to leave next year, but I would love this trade. Although I think Muhammed should start Day 1 at the SF spot simply because as a rookie he will be inefficient and best served playing with Rubio and taking the open looks he gives him and slashing. And I think D-Will is best served as a 6th man who can come in and provide a scoring burst without Love on the floor. You do this trade and you have a team that I think would Gel really nicely and Rubio, Thaddeus Young, And Pek are all very solid on Defense. Good WHAT IF scenario. Enjoyed it thoroughly

  8. I’m all for the trade if Taylor is willing to go into the luxury tax to keep a core of Ricky, Love, Pek and Young around. Young makes a lot of money, so even if you do trade him for equal salary it’s going to be tough when Ricky and Love are both due for their next deal and you have Young and Pek making a lot of money as well. We definitely need a defensive upgrade at the 3 now that AK is gone and this guy would certainly seem to help. A lineup of Ricky, Martin, Young, Love, Pek would have some significant size out on the court and might be able to counteract all the teams trying to go small ball by just outrebounding them by a ton. I would honestly view Pek as the expendable one of the 3 because he doesn’t protect the rim at all and that just seems to be what is needed from NBA Centers in this climate, but I would like to keep all 4 if possible.

  9. I’m torn between liking the spirit of this and thinking that it’s an armchair GM post (though it’s more the latter because you’re not assuming this will happen). It’s not clear to me that Young is a full-time 3 offensively or that he can guard 2s, which would both be necessary to justify paying him that much.

  10. As often happens, the author and the learned commenters are neglecting to mention the other valuable factor that would doubtless come into play with any combination of trade/sell/cut moves the Wolves make in the SF/PF department: Dante Cunningham.

  11. I hope the Timberwolves don’t try and outsmart themselves by selling on Derrick Williams as this post suggests. Don’t get me wrong, I love to play armchair GM, think Thaddeus Young is fantastic player, and do believe that we should move Ridnour (or Barea) before the start of next season but moving Derrick is an awful idea.

    I felt his struggles finishing at the rim at the beginning of the year were largely a fluke, he has legitimate range from the wings, and is a truly world-class athlete. He may not have the lateral agility to guard wings on a full-time basis, but I hope no one mistakes him for Michael Beasley or Wes Johnson as someone who will washout and never reach his potential. The guy can play and will continue to work hard to get better. I love Thaddeus Young’s game and think he fills up the stat sheet efficiently and is a great hustle player but he doesn’t have the potential to be a ‘year-after-year’ All-Star like Derrick.

  12. Mike: I don’t at all think Williams is a washout. There’s certainly a chance that he has more upside than Young in some ways (although I think you can’t underestimate dedication and hoops IQ, which is a department in which Young easily has Williams beat, I feel) but I’m not at all sure what the Wolves need is two All-Stars at the same position down the line. As I said in the post, I think Young is already where we hope Williams will get to, and the Wolves are more interested in competing now than down the line.

    This is why I like the move for Philly, actually. I don’t want to move Williams because he isn’t good; I want to move him because he isn’t what the team needs. I think a lot of the time people assume a player gets traded because a team doesn’t “like” a player or because he’s bad. But honestly, teams are made up of many moving parts and sometimes some of those parts just don’t work effectively together. If you’re trying to rebuild an Audi, you don’t need a Ferrari carburetor, even if it’s a Ferrari. (Forgive me if that’s wrong; I don’t know anything about cars but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying.)

  13. great article and semi-plausible scenario (i say that with all due respect). i think the 76ers think about it, just bc of thad’s contract.

    also, a line-up of “ricky-martin-young-love” is innuendo laden and pleases me very much.

  14. also, a line-up of “ricky-martin-young-love” is innuendo laden and pleases me very much.

    Just so long as it doesn’t induce you to start lobbying for Rudy Gay trades.

    I generally don’t like the idea of giving up on draftees when they’re young, because if they pan out that just means the Timberwolves are acting as a minor league team, seasoning up these guys in their bad years before they can go be good pros for a “real” team. It’s a little galling to imagine the team developing D-Will, working out the kinks in his game and paying his salary until he actually starts producing for someone else. But if they can get a good solid starter for him, I’d think it’s probably worth it.

  15. I think you really need to look at the point Steve is making and I agree. Having Williams play 20 some odd minutes a night (or less) vs someone we could be getting 30+ minutes from you have to look at what’s best for the team. If we trade Williams it’s because we found a piece that fits better for the team than the piece we have. A full balanced roster is going to be more successful than good players stacked at the same position (someone should have mentioned that fact to Kahn). We all saw Derrick at the 3 last year, I don’t think it’s happening personally. He’s a 4. he had his best games as a PF and that’s going to be his position.

    I was deadset against trading him for a unproven draft pick (especially if it meant also throwing in the 9) but an established veteran in his twenties that fills a need and has a PER of 18+? Yeah that’s a good plan.

    a three player rotation of Young, Martin, and Budinger at the 2 and 3 is a solid rotation.

  16. I would love the trade as it benefits both teams and seems feasible. Hopefully Saunders is working on something similar as we speak

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