Not until recently (predominantly due to the lack of legitimate NBA players on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster) has Thaddeus Young been a player that gets plays called for him, yet he always has found a way to get himself involved. Throughout his career, his on court demeanor and innate ability to become his coach’s favorite player (Doug Collins has been brought to tears on multiple occasions at the mere mention of Thad’s name) have endeared him to the Philly faithful. He is beloved by those who appreciate his energy and unrelenting play, and he may have already played his last game with the franchise.
While some may remember the 2007 NBA Draft as Greg Oden versus Kevin Durant, I remember being somewhat confounded by the 76ers’ selection of the 6’8 forward from Georgia Tech. I saw a tweener who seemed to fit the same mold of player who Billy King (GM at the time) coveted: athletic with upside, but not a clearly defined position in the NBA and a lack of shooting prowess. The previous three drafts had yielded Rodney Carney, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala.
By the end of Young's first season, the Lamar Odom comparisons were pervasive, and the expectations for his career skyrocketed. Contrary to the 76ers’ coaching staff that currently preaches player development as their utmost priority, Young's maturity as a player may have been unfairly hindered by the team’s coaching carousel (Maurice Cheeks, Tony Dileo, Eddie Jordan, Doug Collins - four coaches in his four years).
During that time, his position constantly shifted between small forward and power forward. Some coaches allowed him to shoot threes, some kept him shackled. As a consequence, he has never developed a consistent jump shot, or a reliable right hand. His strengths have always been a beautiful touch around the rim with his left hand, and the ability to blow by larger power forwards with his speed. He’s carved himself a niche in the NBA as a small-ball power forward who can disrupt the game with his activity and hustle.
Now a seven-year veteran, Young is no stranger to “rebuilding”, and he isn’t naive. He recognizes that Sam Hinkie is trading away veterans to any rival GM willing to part with 2nd-round picks. During the epic 26-game losing streak this season, Young continued to play the part of consummate professional, perhaps best illustrated by him putting an arm around a referee and pointing out who his current D-League teammates are.
With the draft lottery coming up on May 20th, the positioning of the 76ers’ top-5 pick will play greatly into Young's future. Winning the #2 pick or #4-5 will probably have the Sixers targeting Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kentucky’s Julius Randle. A draft selection of either of these players will likely signify the end of Young’s career with Philadelphia. It’s also entirely possible that Hinkie will look into scenarios of packaging Thad with the #10 pick in order to move up a few spots in the draft to nab Indiana’s Noah Vonleh.
Seven years after he was drafted, Young may not have exactly lived up to irrational hopes. He has the same weaknesses that he had when he first came into the league, but he will always be appreciated for his time in Philadelphia, and forever remembered for this, perhaps his greatest moment.