Pipe Dream: Thaddeus Young on the Wolves
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).
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.