With the 12th pick in the 2007 Draft, the Sixers took a lanky 6-foot-8 freshman out of Georgia Tech with a 4.0 GPA and a Greek-sounding name. I didn’t know who he was, and I wasn’t thrilled about him at the time, but in hindsight, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
That pick, of course, was Thaddeus Young. He hasn’t just been a solid mid-first-round pick. He’s been one of the most productive players of the last seven seasons1, and one of the best in his loaded draft class. Per Basketball Reference, Thad’s career win shares rank sixth among the 2007 draftees, trailing only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Mike Conley. That’s one MVP, three all-stars, and one should-be all-star.
How does Thad make that list without having a single all-star caliber season? Consistency. Thad has been a steady contributor since he was a rookie, missing only 42 games in his seven-year career. In his first season, at 19 years old, he started 22 of the Sixers’ final 38 games and helped the underdog Sixers (40-42) take the Detroit Pistons (59-23) in six games. He put up big numbers as a sophomore (15.3 points) as the Sixers (41-41) reached the postseason and lost in six games again, this time to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic (59-23). Those were sneaky fun teams, and Young was a major part of them.
Thad had a down year in 2009-10 under Eddie Jordan (who didn’t?), then recovered when the Sixers hired turnaround-artist-with-a-three-year-shelf-life Doug Collins. The next year, Young turned all the garbage into gold, blew up pick-and-rolls, and earned a five-year, $43 million contract before the 2011-12 lockout season.
Young has been worth every penny of that deal. Though he didn’t play well in the 2012 playoff run, the Sixers don’t beat the short-handed Bulls or take the Celtics to Game 7 without him. He quietly had one of his best seasons while the Sixers had one of their worst in 2012-13, registering a career-high 7.4 win shares in Collins’ final year. And in 2013-14, while Sixers management threw in the towel, and Thad (reportedly) wanted to gtfo, he still played hard and put up a career-high 18.8 ppg. He was the only evidence that Philly was a real NBA team.
Which brings us to now. Thad, who turned 26 in June, likely has several years of high-level production remaining in his career. He’s athletic, he’s hardworking, he’s got size, he’s smart, and he’s versatile, but if reports are true, he’ll be taking his talents to Minnesota.
That’s shitty, because Thad is Philly’s last remnant of established NBA talent. But it’s reality. If winning a championship is the goal – and that’s not necessarily the case for all owners/fans, but it sure as hell is the case for this blogger – it was time for Thad to go. That, primarily, is because he was opting out of his contract after this season, making this (effectively) an expiring deal2. His trade value isn’t getting any higher, and his on-court value is diminished by the perverse incentives created by the lottery system. I suspect this haul was about as good as they could get.
So, Thad is gone, and in his place are Alexey Shved, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Miami’s first-rounder, which will turn into a player half as productive as Thad if the Sixers are lucky.
Either way, we’ll miss Thad. Hopefully he’ll miss us too – enough to opt out of his Timberwolves contract and return to Philly on a discount next season.
1. I don’t have a breakdown for win shares since 2007, but Thad ranks 97th among active players, per Basketball Reference. The vast majority of those players ahead of him were drafted in 2006 or before.
2.. He was going to decline his 2015-16 option, according to a Liberty Ballers source.