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Is Thaddeus Young Part of Sixers' Future, or Is He Trade Bait?

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Is Thaddeus Young Part of Sixers' Future, or Is He Trade Bait?
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Brett Brown is leading an offensive revolution in his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers

Entering Saturday night, his youthful bunch ranked ninth in the NBA in scoring average, racking up a shade over 10 points per game more than Doug Collins' offensively inept club did during the 2012-13 campaign. 

And if you take a look at the stats of many of of the team's key contributors, you'll notice one significant trend: They're growing with each and every game. 

Case in point: Evan Turner is averaging a career-best 19.6 points per game and ranks third among all players in points per game scored on drives to the rim, according to the NBA's SportVU player tracking data. Need another example? Not only is Spencer Hawes averaging a career-high in the scoring column, but he ranks No. 11 overall in three-point field-goal percentage, putting him in the same company as Arron Afflalo and Wesley Matthews. 

The biggest development, though, has been the play of Thaddeus Young, who entered Saturday night averaging a career-best 17.9 points per game while shooting a stunning 41.2 percent from three, nearly seven percentage points clear of his previous career best.

Brown's system has encouraged Young to take his fair share of threes from above the break. In fact, Young has already attempted more treys this season than he had in the previous three, combined. 

NBA.com/stats

However, there's no guarantee that Young, and his tremendous two-way talents, will be a part of the Sixers' future.

With Young's long-term status in limbo, it's time to examine whether the Sixers are better suited keeping the versatile forward, or dealing him while his value is at an all-time high.   

 

The Trade Request

Back on Dec. 19, Liberty Ballers reported that Young had filed a trade request with the Sixers as he sought an opportunity to play for a contender.

Here are the details from Liberty Ballers' Jake Fischer:

Young and his agent, Jim Tanner, submitted a formal trade request to Hinkie and the Sixers weeks ago, according to a source close to Young.

"Thad is ready to leave Philly," the source said. "He isn't with the whole tanking thing." The Sixers are currently last in the Atlantic Division at 7-19

However, Young quickly denied the report, giving CSN Philly's Dei Lynam a direct answer when asked if he had requested a move: 

“No,” Young said. “My agent has talked to [general manager Sam Hinkie] about different situations and options. I know there have been talks about me being traded and me having a lot of frustrations, but that comes with losing basketball games. People have to realize that when you are in a losing situation like we are now, we are going to get frustrated and everyone is going to tense up a little bit. That is what has been happening.”

But whether Young wants out or not is essentially a moot point. 

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

He's an extremely valuable commodity, especially with the trade deadline looming, and general manager Sam Hinkie will almost assuredly find parties interested in Young's services as Feb. 20 approaches.

But even if Young does want to be traded, a request isn't going to suddenly force Hinkie to sell off one of his key pieces for pennies on the dollar. That's not how he works.  

And guess what? If a deal doesn't present itself that satisfies Hinkie's presumed desires for a draft pick and young asset, then he has the luxury of holding onto Young, building around him and making him a building block of one of the league's most intriguing young projects. 

 

Flexible Contract

If the Sixers were strapped for cash, perhaps there would be more pressure to deal Young.

Philly only has $23.7 million on the books for next season, according to HoopsHype, meaning that holding onto their highest-paid player wouldn't hurt the team's salary cap flexibility as they enter another crucial summer of rebuilding. 

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As things stand, Young is set to make a shade under $9.2 million next season and then has a player option worth roughly $9.7 million for the 2015-16 season. 

And when you come to understand that players like Kendrick Perkins, Jeff Green, Jameer Nelson and Charlie Villanueva are all making similar salaries this season, it's clear that Young is a relative bargain. 

Considering Hinkie has put the Sixers in an ideal spot from a financial standpoint, dealing Young for anything less than equal value would be foolish.  

 

Resurgent Play

After struggling in November, Young exploded in December, averaging 20.1 points and 6.8 rebounds over 13 games. He shot 52.7 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from three in the final month of 2013, and his true shooting percentage ballooned more than seven points to a mark of 59.8 while shooting 82.1 percent from the free-throw line. 

For his career, Young averages a true shooting percentage (which takes into account the value of three-point field-goals and free throws) of 54.8 and has hit on 70.1 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe. 

According to Chris Vito of the Delaware County Daily TimesYoung feels that he's playing the best ball of his career: 

“This is the best I’ve ever felt, as far as my career, and just going out and playing,” Young said. “Largely, it’s (a credit) to my teammates. They’ve been looking to get me into the flow of the offense, get me the ball, make sure that they’re getting me the ball in the right spots. Sometimes, it’s in the low post area and where I can work, and (they’re) getting out of the way and letting me play guys 1-on-1, or sometimes it’s setting a screen and rolling, picking and popping, taking two guys with them and creating easier opportunities for me.”

What's more impressive is that Young's recent stretch has been unprecedented, not just at an individual level, but from a team standpoint as well: 

Following Thursday night's 113-104 win over the Sacramento Kings, Young had scored 25 points or more in five of his last six games, and he even ripped a career-high six steals on a night when the Sixers captured their third consecutive victory.

Consider that Young's usage rate is currently at an all-time high, and the increased productivity starts to make sense.

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According to mySynergySports (subscription required), Young is excelling in a variety of offensive situations.

He's scoring 1.2 points per possession (No. 8 overall) as the roll man in pick-and-rolls and 1.05 points per possession in isolation (No. 7 overall). Young's held his own on the other end of isolations as well, allowing opponents to score 0.53 points per possession and shoot 25 percent from the field in said situations. 

He's also posted a respectable 0.93 points per possession on post-ups—which account for 18.7 percent of his offensive production—ranking No. 25 overall. 

It's also worth noting that the Sixers have been 5.6 points better per 100 possessions on the offensive end with Young on the floor, per NBA.com.  

 

Should He Stay or Should He Go? 

The good news for Sixers fans is that this is a win-win proposition.

If management decides it's in the team's best interest to keep Young, they'll be happy to watch his game evolve alongside Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. 

Remember: Even though Young is currently in his seventh season and the elder statesman on this Sixers team, he's still just 25 years old and has plenty of room to develop his game further with Brown at the helm. 

With that said, it's just as easy to get excited about Young's recent surge in production and see it as the sign of a big deal to come. 

However, as B/R's Zach Buckley noted, Young's contract may not be as attractive to potential suitors as it is to the Sixers, although his skill set is the kind that could be sought after by a Western Conference contender that's craving one more dynamic piece in order to make a title push: 

He's far from a bargain (two years, $19-plus million left on his contract, although he has an early termination option for 2014-15), but he'll never be accused of NBA larceny. Teams get what they pay for with Young, a claim not all NBA players can make

With all of those facts in mind, I'm inclined to say that Young should say.

It would be one thing if the Sixers didn't have any assets in the 2014 draft, but they're already loaded with two presumed lottery picks, boast the likely Rookie of the Year and have Noel waiting in the wings.

At some point this team is going to need to invest in stable veterans, and there isn't one better than Young, who's tailor-made for Brown's system, one which has accentuated his positive attributes on both ends of the floor. 

 

All statistics current as of Jan. 4, and are courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com unless noted otherwise. 

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