Like always, Thaddeus Young is an afterthought. Even in a trade that brought him out of the dredges of Minnesota and onto the Brooklyn Nets, a major-market team where he could make a significant impact on a playoff race for the final spot in the Eastern Conference, the trade was all about what was going the other way: Kevin Garnett agreeing to waive his no-trade clause and reunite with his former club & coach on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even outside the vacuum of the deal, much of the attention was paid to what the Nets couldn’t pull off, rather than what they could.
But the Nets got a solid upgrade by trading the aging Garnett. Young, a 26-year-old hybrid forward from New Orleans in his eighth NBA season, spent the first seven years of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, before moving to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the three-team trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers (talk about another afterthought). Young started 48 games for the 11-43 Timberwolves this season, averaging 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 33.4 minutes per game. His numbers this season are a tick below his career averages, and it remains to be seen how he’ll react to a new situation & fit in Brooklyn. But with the Nets trying to stagger Lopez & Plumlee’s minutes, he’ll have no shortage of playing time at power forward.
Most of Young’s damage on the offensive end comes inside. After a career-high 292 three-point attempts with the 76ers last season, Young dialed it in a bit this season, taking just 65 shots from deep in 48 games, and he’s hit only 30.3 percent on long two-pointers and 29.2 percent on threes. He’s a crafty left-handed scorer who has played more under the rim this season than in years past, but still gets most of his buckets in the restricted area. Just check out his scoring heat map, courtesy of NBA Savant:
Young, like most big men, is at his best when paired with a capable point guard. He shot much better from the floor during his brief time with Ricky Rubio (53.7 percent on 82 attempts) than without (43.8 percent on 559 attempts), including a spike in his shots at the rim, per NBA.com. He’s adept at navigating the space near the basket, and should be able to get a few bunnies that Garnett might not have gotten while working out of the high post. Whether or not he, Jarrett Jack, and Deron Williams can figure out some sort of cohesion will be a major indicator of his success.
THADDEUS YOUNG EAR-PLAYING BREAK!
No one yells on defense like Kevin Garnett, who probably screams out defensive coverages during catnaps, and the Nets know they won’t replace that impact. Nonetheless, Young’s been known throughout his career as a plus defender, both by the metrics and the eye test. He’s a bit undersized at power forward, and without Garnett’s non-stop defensive communication anchoring the back line, it’s not clear just how well Brooklyn’s overall defense will perform.
The Nets should have Young on their roster in time for tomorrow night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s not clear if Hollins wants to integrate him into the starting lineup right away — most coaches prefer getting a player in for at least one practice to understand the schemes — but he’ll certainly get the playing time.
With the Nets on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference playoff race, Young probably isn’t the sole piece to push them into contention. The rest of the teams in the race bulked up, too. Two teams used Phoenix’s point guards as a jumping-off point: the Miami Heat acquired Goran Dragic in a major deal, and the Boston Celtics pulled off a trade for the talented Isaiah Thomas. That’s not to mention the Detroit Pistons, who nicked Reggie Jackson right from under the Nets at the last second. But if Young can be a part of a team-wide resurgence, we could see the Nets sneak into one of the final spots in the playoffs. They’ve got 30 games to make their case.