Philadelphia 76ers: Why Thaddeus Young Needs to Keep Coming off the Bench
Philadelphia 76ers' forward Thaddeus Young has been vocal in recent days about his desire to become a starter for the Sixers this year, with Andre Iguodala's departure having opened up a vacancy at the starting 3 spot.
In an recent interview with Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com, Young admitted that he'd like to earn a starting role this coming season.
"It's very important, whether you're going to come off the bench or whether you're going to start, it's a whole completely different preparation for the game. I definitely want to become a starter, I definitely want to be a starter, and I'm definitely going to work hard enough to become that starter."
Here's the thing, though: It may hurt Young's pride, but the team is better off keeping him a reserve.
That's not a knock on Young. He's a great player and a huge asset for the Sixers.
He's just not as much of a complement to the other Sixers' starters as a few of his new teammates are.
The Sixers' 1 and 5 spots are set heading into training camp with Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum, respectively, but the 2, 3 and 4 starting spots should all be up for grabs.
Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick from the 2010 draft, will start at either the 2 or the 3, depending on coach Doug Collins' other two starting choices. Collins hasn't been shy about his plans to start Spencer Hawes at the 4, envisioning him as filling the "Pau Gasol role," so that leaves only one starting spot open.
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No matter whether Turner starts at the 2 or the 3, the Sixers desperately need one thing from that final starter: consistent long-range shooting ability.
That's where Young falls short, up to this point in his career.
He's a career 33.7 percent shooter from long-range, but shot only 25 percent from downtown last season. After attempting over two threes a game in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 season, Young's three-point field goal attempts have virtually disappeared since Doug Collins took over two years ago.
The problem for Young is that neither Turner nor Holiday will inspire much fear from opponents when left open behind the three-point line. Holiday shot 38 percent from deep last year and enters the year as a career 37.7 shooter from three-point range, but he attempted less than three shots per game last season from downtown.
Turner, on the other hand, sports a cover-your-eyes bad 26.9 career three-point shooting percentage, having shot 31.8 percent from deep his rookie season and 22.4 percent from there last year. Three-point shooting isn't his go-to game, suffice it to say.
That makes a sharpshooter that much more necessary to pair alongside Holiday and Turner in the backcourt, which Thad can't exactly claim to be.
Lo and behold, who did the Sixers acquire this summer, besides the much-heralded Bynum? Three sharpshooters in Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright.
At this point, with the new Sixers players not having played a minute of basketball together with each other, it's impossible to project which of Richardson, N. Young and Wright deserve the starting spot.
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And realistically, Thad's familiarity with the offensive and defensive sets should give him a leg up on all three as they head into training camp.
Despite that, he'd be a much greater asset for the Sixers leading the bench unit.
The Hawes-Bynum starting frontcourt will present matchup problems for any team without two competent seven-footers, but the Sixers could have Thad at the ready to replace Hawes and create all new sorts of matchup problems for opponents.
Young logged nearly all of his minutes at the 4 last season, as coach Collins believes the offensive advantages he creates compensates for the times when he gets overpowered defensively by a bigger, stronger power forward.
Over the course of his career, the stats have suggested as much: Young has consistently posted a higher PER when playing the 4 than the 3, according to 82games.com, but has also consistently allowed opponents to post a higher PER at the 4 than the 3.
With Bynum and Kwame Brown now on the team to play the role of rim-stuffers, Young's defensive deficiencies at the 4 shouldn't haunt the Sixers as frequently this season, in theory.
Last season, Young put up 12.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while coming off the bench next to Lou Williams, the Sixers' leading scorer. The team has since allowed Williams to head back home to Atlanta, leaving a massive leadership role on the bench open.
Collins recognizes how much of an advantage the Sixers have when Young comes off the bench, even if it's a blow to his pride.
To his credit, Young is playing the role of good soldier for now.
"At the end of the day, it's all about what coach wants and what the team needs," he told Lynam.
What the team needs is for Young to keep coming off the bench, whether he likes it or not.
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