Anthony Bennett vs. Thaddeus Young: Don’t Overload the Youth Movement

Steve McPherson —  August 5, 2014 — 32 Comments

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With the likelihood of a swap with Love-for-Wiggins at its core looking more likely, a lot of fans have apparently shifted their focus for the time being onto what else will come along with this trade exchanging proven superstar for potential superstar. The big problem with moving Love for a swingman is the enormous hole left at the power forward position, especially given Dante Cunningham’s expiring deal (and whether or not the team exercises its option for him, he isn’t a viable starter). Sure, there’s the potential for Gorgui Dieng to get some minutes at the four as a supersized PF next to Pekovic, which could surely create some excellent and interesting high-low action given the passing skills that Dieng showed off in college, but Dieng is also not an every-game starter at power forward.

So the question becomes who the Wolves can get back in the trade to man the four spot, and it seems like people are waffling over the still-raw-but-possibly-better-than-we-thought-last-year Anthony Bennett or the largely unsung and in some cases unknown Thaddeus Young, who could be routed from Philadelphia should they be brought into the deal.

Now if you know me, you know I like Thad Young. I wrote about him for the New York Times and HoopChalk prior to last season, essentially lauding his evolution into a true smallball power forward and noting that if he could add the 3-pointer back into his game — he shot ~35% in his second and third seasons — he could become even better. (Also worth noting that he was most successful from 3-point range on the left wing — Love’s favorite spot.)

This past season he did re-introduce the 3-pointer, but it didn’t go super well. He only shot 31% from 3-point range, but I think it’s worth remembering that he more or less hadn’t taken a 3-point shot in a game for three years (34 3PA in those three years combined) and that he was on an atrocious Sixers team where the offense wasn’t designed to get him 3-point looks. With seven years of experience but still just 26 years old, I still think Thaddeus Young can be a tremendous player in the league, if not a marquee star.

That veteran experience is what I’m more interested in talking about than his specific game, though. It’s true that Bennett looked much better in Summer League than he did at any point last year, and it’s true that he was dealing with a host of physical issues from rehabilitating an injury to his shoulder to sleep apnea (for which he’s since had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids). There’s every reasonable expectation that, given the right environment, he can evolve into a very good basketball player.

But that’s the sticking point: environment. There’s a natural tendency to look at a player’s skillset and potential and believe it will blossom one way or another, but it’s more complicated than that. Simply put, if the Wolves are already going to be giving heavy minutes to Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, it’s going to be very difficult to also give heavy minutes to Bennett. Three years down the line, a starting lineup with LaVine, Wiggins and Bennett could be great, but I just don’t think they get there if they’re all having to start this season, or even just play heavy minutes.

First and second year players simply need to be surrounded by veterans to reach their full potential. If this trade goes down and if it involves Kevin Martin and if the Wolves feel they need to start Wiggins over Brewer, that means the longest tenured starter would be Pekovic, with four years of NBA experience. Rubio has three, and just barely given that he’s played 180 games in those three years. Young more than doubles Rubio’s experience and nearly doubles Pekovic’s.

Now obviously the kind of veteran leader he can be matters, but so far he’s shown himself to be quiet and steady, plus he hasn’t needed the team to be designed around getting him looks for him still to be the best player on the floor for the Sixers the last two years.

You need balance on a team, not just to be successful, but to grow. Young versus Bennett probably won’t change the win total of next year’s Wolves very much — and I don’t expect them to be good in the sense of making the playoffs either way — but a team on which Wiggins, LaVine and Bennett are all getting heavy minutes would not only be not very good next year, but it would stunt all of their development. It’s better for LaVine and Wiggins to be finding their feet next to a veteran like Young, even if he leaves after next season by not picking up his player option. If he does leave, that’s nearly $10 million in cap space.

The bottom line here is that playing a bunch of potentially great rookies might work in NBA 2K15, but doing so in the real world not only hurts the team’s present prospects but also their future ones. The Baby Bulls of the early 2000s are instructive here. They were not only a 21-win team in 2002 when they had Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry as rookies plus Jamal Crawford and Marcus Fizer as sophomores, but they stayed bad for years.

No matter a player’s potential, growth curves are not inevitable. Developing one rookie is ideal. Two simultaneously is a challenge but possibly worth the payoff if it works. Giving three young players big minutes is likely to compromise all of their development and hamstring the team for years.

Steve McPherson

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32 responses to Anthony Bennett vs. Thaddeus Young: Don’t Overload the Youth Movement

  1. Thaddeus Young is clearly the best option for the Wolves to hold down the four-spot. I personally think he has both a lower floor and a higher ceiling than Bennett. He attacks the basket well, shoots the ball well out to 16ft (and has shown flashes of 3pt range), is an efficient scorer (career .500 shooter), and has sneakily good hands and anticipation (he was 3rd in steals last year). Definitely an under-appreciated player. Young is more skilled across the board than Bennett at everything except rebounding.

    Young doesn’t protect the rim or rebound well for his position, but his other skills would more than make up for that. A Rubio-Wiggins-Brewer-Young-Dieng lineup would be a crazy dangerous lineup of thieves and transition basketball players, that would be a delight to watch even if they didn’t win a ton of games.

    But the big thing is to have a good veterans to help guide the teams. OKC turning it around exclusively with talented youngsters is the exception, not the rule (something the 76ers should be careful about). Rubio, Dieng, Lavine, Little Dog and Wiggins are young players that will still need lots of developmental work. Best to have a good role model in Young who will set a positive culture and to not to overload the developmental system by adding Bennett.

  2. *I meant a higher floor and a higher ceiling

  3. Nathan Brinkman August 5, 2014 at 11:06 am

    What I’m not understanding is why this is a one or the other argument. If the wolves do move to aquire Young, they will most likely have already acquired Bennet. In this case for the coming year, I agree that Young would be the best option. But looking ahead I like Bennett. I. The upcoming season using a lineup of Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Young, and Pek would be ideal with Lavine, Muhammad, Wiggins, Bennett, and Dieng all coming off the bench. 3 years down the line the wolves could have one of the best young rosters in the NBA. With a lineup of Rubio, Lavine, Wiggins, Bennett, and Dieng. With Muhammad as a scoring sixth man. Therefore I like both players in the love deal and expect the wolves to aquire both.

  4. I still believe Young and Bennett will come this way. That’s just me, I think Philly wants contracts that are expiring. No one in East will be close to beating CLE now.

  5. If he does have a higher ceiling….why is Philly getting rid of him????? The only reason I see the Wolves trading him is because Philly is willing to take on one of martin, berea because of getting bennett. I seen enough of young to say his ceiling isn’t much better than it is now. Young could also leave next year.

  6. I totally agree with this. It’s the same reason I want to keep Pek. I understand the “keeping Pek hinders the draft status and makes for a lot of $ on the books” type of argument but I also think the “blind leading the blind” format hinders the team as well. There are pros and cons for each side but I like the idea of having someone on the floor in real-time floor minutes (as opposed to just coaches on the sidelines) to teach some hands-on experience.

  7. Steve Linnerooth August 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    What a bunch of drivel. If Young can just walk after next year the twolves may as well keep Love and take their chances.

  8. My main worry is if Thad leaves after 1 year, was that risk worth more than at least trying to develop Bennett with LaVine and Wiggins? I find it hard to believe all 3 of them hit their ceiling, but you essentially need Wiggins to hit his ceiling if Thad leaves because he becomes your only long-term return for Love (minus a possible late first rounder). That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young guy. If you get Wiggins and Bennett, you just need 1 of them to hit their ceiling to make it worth it so you are giving yourself more chances to find a really good player. I like Thad, but our roster is stocked full of veterans right now in my opinion (Pek and Rubio being younger ones, but Martin, Mo Williams, Brewer, Bud, LRMAM and Ronny are also veterans themselves). A lot of this could change depending on the pieces that end up being traded but if the worst you lose is a Martin or Brewer there are still enough vets on the team in my opinion to mentor those youth. I understand the need for someone to start at the 4, but I don’t think trading Bennett for a possible 1 year rental is worth it before we know what Bennett can become especially when he has 3 more years on his rookie deal to find out versus Thad’s 1 guaranteed year. Philly took pretty substandard deals for Turner and Hawes so would it really take Bennett and pick(s) to get him? The way the market played out this summer has me very worried about getting a guy like Thad who just needs 1 team to be willing to overpay for his services to either stick us with a bad contract or give up a key piece in the Love deal for nothing.

  9. Kyle ~ I wouldn’t be worried about Thad bolting after one year. $9mil/year is almost precisely his market value as a solid if not spectacular starting PF. And assuming the Wolves don’t bring back LRMAM after this season, the Wolves will be one of the few teams willing and able to throw another contract at him in the $8-$11mil/year range. So unless he suddenly decides being a back-up on a championship-caliber team for less money is better than starting and pulling down the $$ he deserves, I say odds are good he wouldn’t be a one year rental. The only reason either he or the Wolves would move on from a Love-less Minnesota team would be if the Wolves were able to score a PF with a top pick in next year’s draft.

  10. I think and hope the wolves will be getting both Young and Bennet. The Wolves signed Mo Williams so at least one probably both JJ and Alexi are being traded so more salary has to come back. That means adding young’s 10 million makes sense. If they get both then you start Young until Bennet proves he is the better player.

  11. I just want Thad Young so Steve has a reason to be excited about the coming season.

  12. I am torn. On one hand I love Young but on the other hand Bennett seems more likely to be able to be kept long term.

  13. There are most definitely a few posts by me in more than one AWAW articles saying how much I like Thaddeus Young. But the trade seems a bit light to me Wiggins and a guy in what could be the last year of his deal plus a late first round pick for a top 10 player seems a bit light. I like the pieces but it just feels like all we’ll end up with is Wiggans and a dude picked in the 20’s as we see a different PF than Love leave at the end of the year. Thad was going to walk at the end of next year in Philly and I am not so sure he won’t feel the same after one year with us.

    I hope it’s just the “nobody loves us but our mommas and they might be jivin’ too” T wolves fan in me, but I would have liked to see a bit more long term pieces come back or maybe even give Philly those late number ones + flotsam and see Bennett and Thaddeus + Wiggins all coming to the Wolves.

  14. I guess there will be a 3-team trades at the end. Bennett to 76ers, and Thad will be a wolves.

  15. Btw, I don’t like Zach LaVine. The T’wolves should be built around Rubio, Wiggins and Pek.

  16. Stop drinking Flip’s kool-aid. Young is an average PF on his best day. Last season it took him 16 FGA attempts to average 18pts. Not what I would call efficient by any standards. Young doesnt get to the free throw line(2.3 FTA per), he does not offer any rim protection(0.4 blks per), and his rebounding is quite sub par for a starting NBA PF(5.5 REB per), let alone a star player. I would honestly take Kris Humphries over Thad any day. The Wolves will regret this decision. Thad is worth a couple second round picks, that’s all!!!! They will also regret it, if J.J is on this season’s roster.

  17. I was thinking that but would philly really want a kevin martin or jj barea? I would more think a team like the pacers would be looking at a kevin martin to provide scoring after george went down or the cavs might like barea as a dynamo off the bench.

  18. I think the sixers would be willing to take anyone on an expiring contract. They’re clearly still rebuilding, and not hiding it, and have a ton of cap room. If they have to take on a salary dump for one year but get an extra draft pick out of it, I think they’d do it. So probably not martin, but quite possibly JJ.

  19. I’d love to keep both. The Sixers probably want expirings and a pick. I’m not so sure they like Bennett that much, since they have Noels and Embiid already. Waiters (team option in 2015), Barea or Shved and a pick is more than enough, isn’t it?

    This way the Wolves fill the need at PF with 2 interesting prospects.

  20. I’m just waiting for someone to say (and seriously mean it) that we never should have traded D-Will. But I trust there are enough wise ones among us to rip that argument to shreds! It is so tough to be in a situation where you are trying to replace an all-star starter in Love. And not just that, but someone who does so much all by himself. I do agree that too many young guys stunts the growth of everyone. That is pretty much what happened here after KG left. Here’s hoping we have enough vets, and the right vets, to help the young pups grow. The right moves might help to avoid a huge drop off from last year but the wrong moves could send us into another 10 year black hole.

  21. Anthony Bennett was terrible last year. I get it, he was playing hurt. But he was awful. Congrats on doing well in Summer league, but that proves absolutely nothing.

    Guess who the top scorers in last years summer league were?

    Dwight Buycks (TOR)
    CJ McCollum (POR)
    Jeffery Taylor (CHA)
    Andrew Goudelock (CHI)
    Jonas Valanciunas (TOR)
    Mike Scott (ATL)
    Kent Bazemore (GSW)
    Marquis Teague (CHI)
    Austin Rivers (NOP)
    Reggie Bullock (LAC)
    John Jenkins (ATL)
    Josh Akognon (DAL)

    How anyone would want to take a flyer on what looks like a draft bust because maybe somehow he could be the exact opposite of what he was last year, instead of a proven PF that is only 26, seems crazy to me. I get the philosophy of tanking this next season, but next years draft is just loaded with bigs, which we already seem to be set at.

    Plus, a roster that includes Rubio, Wiggins, Young, and Pek won’t be the worst in the NBA. 5-6th pick.

    We need to unload players like Barea, Martin, Budinger, and LRMAM, and get a true SG. Frankly, I want to get rid of Rubio too.

    Lavine/Shved
    Shabazz/GRIII
    Wiggins/Brewer
    Young/Turiaf
    Pek/Dieng

    Let’s run with that roster, and see how it goes. Tank for the 4th pick (obviously we wouldnt get a lottery pick…), and build for the future.

  22. Tim – Regardless if Love gets moved or not (which it looks almost certain he will now) trading Derrick Williams was a terrible move. Well, trading D-Will wasn’t a bad decision given Adelman clearly had no intent on playing him ahead of Dante at the 4 or Chase at the 3, but to only get LRMAM in return made it a bad move. Not saying that D-Will should’ve been the heir apparent to man the 4 post Love, but the Wolves didn’t gain anything by moving him.

  23. Mickey – How can you call a guy a bust after 1 season in which he missed SL, training camp and a chunk of the start of the year to an injury and he had some other physical ailments he was dealing with the whole season? That’s ridiculous to me. It usually takes guys 3 years in the league to hit their stride so giving up on someone after 1 year when they were struggling physically just seems way too fast. We wait for guys who are rail thin to put on the muscle to play in this league, so why is Bennett not being given the chance to get in shape before he is declared a bust? Given the return Philly got for Turner and Hawes, it’s crazy to me that we are talking about possibly giving them a former #1 overall pick and a first(s) for Thad. Give them the picks, JJ, LRMAM and Shved and that should be more than enough to get Thad. Then we can still get Thad and have a backup going into his 3rd year if Thad leaves. I like Bennett as a frontcourt scoring option off the bench because we severely lacked in that department last year. I think they get Bennett or picks, but not both. There’s no reason it should take both to get him when they clearly have already thrown in the towel this season.

  24. There are a few crucial things to keep in mind with all of this. Much like the Cavs and Love, the Wolves have likely (with Philly’s permission) spoken to Young’s agent about his willingness to stay here long-term. They’d also have his Bird Rights and a decent amount of cap space. It’s also not yet clear if the Sixers have any interest in Bennett, and some speculated deals have had both coming here.

    The big problem with Bennett is this: for a team that has some $ tied up in players for the foreseeable future (they’ll have cap space next summer but have overpaid some productive players), does it make sense to pay a guy $5.5 million for 1 year (or $11.5 million for 2 years or almost $19 million for 3 years depending on if the team picks up their options) who is highly unlikely to produce that much value? It’s basically paying a premium for a guy who they won’t get their money’s worth from. At least their overpaid vets have proven they belong in the league. In many mock drafts, he was going near or after Shabazz; it just happened that he shot up dramatically and Shabazz slipped. This is in no way a typical “former #1 pick.”

    As for how to approach next season, the big question is how to best develop young talent. It’d require a fairly in-depth study to really determine that, but the good/great ones always seem to find a way to become good/great; for all the “didn’t get a chance” talk that surrounds busts (which is absurd when applied to Derrick Williams, a guy who started 71 games with the Wolves), most of those guys don’t ever redeem themselves in a new setting, which makes me think that whether a player truly becomes something is mostly on the player. There’s no better example of that than Love. With that said, Zach LaVine and Alexey Shved as the PG rotation (to go along with Shabazz and GR3 as the SG rotation) is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard this summer, unless the goal is to destroy the confidence of those 4 guys and anger the rest of the guys on the court.

  25. Well first off anyone who in one sentence calls Bennett a bust and in the next shows Shabazz Muhammad as a starting 2 guard and Zach Lavine over Rubio at PG probably needs to start watching bowling.. Basketball ain’t your thing..

    Second gjk, all I am going to say is Jermaine O’Neal, Chauncey Billups, Zach Randolph, guys who changed teams and played at extremely high levels. So it can happen. Also $5 mill flyer on a guy with 3 years left on his rookie contract is not a huge risk (yeah I know I said it like it’s monopoly money).

    If the choice is Thad or Bennett it’s Thad hands down, what I and others are saying is Thad on a 1 year deal (as far as Wolves,agents, and players making promises I have one name Carlos Boozer) and Wiggins as the only return for K love the deal seems a bit thin on our end and I would take the Bulls offer over that.

    Too bad we have to wait to see how this really all falls. Three more weeks of this is going to be painful.

  26. “Frankly, I want to get rid of Rubio too.”

    Said no other Wolves fan………….. ever.

  27. I’m aware that young players get better. The problem with the examples being used are that they all were productive and just lacked minutes. O’Neal and Randolph were each behind Sabonis and Wallace (along with other vets) but still showed much better efficiency numbers (as did Billups) than Bennett. Also, that $5.5 million next season, $5.8 million the following season, and $7.3 million the season after that is salary that might be needed to pick up an actual impact player. O’Neal was the 17th pick (last year’s 17th pick, Dennis Schroeder, made $1.3 million last season) and Randolph was the 19th pick (Sergey Karasev made $1.46 million last season). I get that Billups was the 3rd pick and obviously cost more to his teams, but he still didn’t figure it out until 2001-02. If that’s how long it takes Bennett, he probably won’t be on the Wolves any more, and they’ll have mismanaged the opportunity cost of adding him to the roster/payroll.

    In NBA trades, quality will always matter more than quantity. No single piece available to the Wolves is more valuable than Wiggins was, both in terms of potential and contract. Also, none of us know how often a wink-wink re-signing has occurred after a trade, so any mention of contrary examples will always carry less weight than we perceive.

  28. I know I’m probably coming out of left field, but after pouring over some advanced metrics shouldn’t we be chasing a rim protector to help ease the sieve we have in the paint. Young projects to help offensively, but I’d rather see us pair Pek with some help around the rim. Perhaps Amir Johnson from Toronto who’s on the last year of his contract, or the pipe dream of Millsap. Any thoughts on that?

  29. Well, let’s not get any of this twisted. The guy we got to be the future of the franchise and to get excited about is Wiggins and should solely be Wiggins. Our thoughts should be directed into how to make him the best player he could be and I think Young, even for one season, will help take that burden off Wiggins better than Bennett could be in the next couple of years. McPherson is right about needing veterans and not only that, veterans that’ll help and compliment these young players and because Young is versatile in playing both forward positions, provides shooting out to the midrange and still is a decent 3-point shooting if he attempted them and can play off the ball. So, you can see minutes where it’s a Rubio-Wiggins-Young perimeter lineup and it provides a respectable scorer on the floor. Plus, he’s also right about the problems in trying to give minutes to three young players who don’t fully understand the NBA game and it hampering their growth. Also, since we’re stuck with Pekovic for the foreseeable future, which has it’s positives and negatives that you can live with, I don’t really care much for the hassle of also trying to develop and find playing time for Bennett, since those two will be awful defensively on the floor together. Even with a proper summer of being healthy and in-shape, he seems like an off-the-bench scorer as his realistic ceiling. Also, I’ve been really into the 2015 NBA Draft and I know guys will rise and fall as the college season unveils but there are a surplus of power forwards who seems steady enough to stay at the top of the draft board to choose and that’ll probably be the position we’ll try to fill next, which is another reason why Bennett doesn’t seem like so much of a vital piece needed for the future. Throw in that we’ll have Young’s Bird-rights and he’ll still be in his prime on his next deal since he’ll be 27 and can work off the bench too and I’d rather have him. Now, if Philly can take back JJ Barea, that’ll be cool too since it’ll help unclogged minutes for LaVine in finding time for point guard duties.

  30. It isn’t ideal to not have a good shotblocker as the main minutes guy at C, but they have 2 rim protectors as backup centers, and a change in defensive philosophy where they’re more willing to foul around the rim and/or attempt to strip the ball near the basket (they were 3rd in steals and Young had over 2 per game last season) will probably help their D there. Johnson and Millsap are average rim protectors (similar to Dante Cunningham). If John Henson is available, that would be a worthwhile name to consider on a much cheaper contract (though he would probably cost more in assets being traded), as would free agent Ekpe Udoh (though he might have some interest from a good team).

    I hope the thinking of LaVine as a PG will stop. He’s a SG who can handle the ball. Summer league is for experimentation, so that’s why he played a lot there. JJ’s presence on the roster doesn’t matter for this considering Mo Williams has already replaced him. Why turn a strength (being a good ballhandler/passer for a SG) into a weakness (being an average/poor ballhandler for a PG who may also have trouble guarding PGs)?

  31. It’s not that I think LaVine is a point guard but since this is a development process with him, you have to figure out ways to make his game well rounded. So there you give him PG minutes so it’ll sharpen up his decision making and ball handling and it’ll give you flexibility in the future. Also, I want JJ gone because I solely want the point guard minutes distribution to be with Rubio-Williams-LaVine and all the chemistry issues he’s caused. He’s no head case but he’s probably on his way out with the team after this season and I want the example set for the rookies of guys that want to be here.

    Also, I don’t know if they’ll be using that defensive strategy since it was Adelman’s, even though the personally is roughly the same (minus Kevin Love of course). It’ll probably be even more of use with Wiggins there but all in all, it doesn’t seem like a feasible strategy for the long term future.

  32. Their defensive strategy last season wasn’t “strip the ball near the rim and be willing to give fouls”; I don’t know what would give you that idea. Their opponents had the fewest free throw attempts in the league. Their strategy last year was to contest without fouling, control the boards, and gamble for steals in the passing lanes.

    As for the PG minutes, JJ’s a nonfactor either way. It’s not that he caused chemistry issues; it’s that he can’t facilitate open shots for others and he was surrounded by non-scorers off the bench. I don’t know where you get the idea that he didn’t want to be here; he pouted from time to time and may not have gotten along with Love, but that’s not the same thing. I don’t want him here because Williams fills his role better, but that doesn’t mean they need to make LaVine the 3rd PG to prevent JJ from playing there; even with their current roster crunch, it’d be surprising if they don’t have another true PG on this roster by opening night because Flip has always had 3.

    Also, throwing too many different responsibilities at a rookie is a surefire way to decrease their chances of success. LaVine can improve his ballhandling and passing in the offseason; he’s a big enough risk with a high enough bust potential that they need to make sure he can succeed at one spot first. SGs who can handle the ball get plenty of opportunities to do so, and Williams plays well enough off the ball that they would fit well together if LaVine is ready for minutes.

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