Should Thaddeus Young Start for the Philadelphia 76ers?

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterSeptember 11, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 16: Thaddeus Young #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers lays up a shot past Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 16, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Thaddeus Young wants to start for the Philadelphia 76ers this season.

Not exactly press-stopping news in the City of Brotherly Love. The five-year NBA veteran out of Georgia Tech made that much clear during a recent interview with Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com, though he also emphasized that he'll do whatever head coach Doug Collins asks of him.

Which, at this point, means that Thad will be tethered to the bench for the third season in a row. As Collins told John Finger of CSNPhilly.com:

I’d like to continue to play Thad off the bench. I like his energy and his attitude he brings to us.

Collins, for his part, didn't exactly close the door on Young winding up in the starting five:

From all the reports I got, he has his weight up to 229 pounds — he finished the season at 215. The one thing with Thad is if you put him with a big guy that protects him, it makes him much better. So we think he’s going to be even better with Kwame (Brown) and Andrew (Bynum), who is going to be an even bigger help with the speed and quickness he plays with. Thad is going to be a big part of what we do.

As Collins implied, Thad is a textbook 'tweener. He's a bit too small to defend power forwards and a bit too slow to hang with small forwards. He has occasional range out to the three-point line, but he does his best work on the inside and in transition.

Let's not overstate Young's shortcomings, though. He's a fine talent who's shown in the past that he can put up 15 points and five rebounds per game (as he did in 2008-09), and, at 24, still has plenty of room for improvement.

The trouble lies in finding the proper niche for Young, assuming his outside shooting and ball-handling don't eventually pass muster to make him a swingman. He was the odd man out on the wing when Andre Iguodala was in town and remains so now that Evan Turner has emerged as a budding star.

Somehow, the situation at small forward remains just as cluttered even after Iguodala was jettisoned in the Dwight Howard trade, thanks to the addition of Dorell Wright via free agency. Wright's skills as a three-point shooter should earn him plenty of burn off the Sixers' bench.

Again, not exactly good news for Thad. As Collins alluded, Young will probably have to go digging for minutes at the 4, where Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and rookie Arnett Moultrie have staked out spots.

And with the way Young's been pushed around by opposing power forwards in the past—most notably Taj Gibson and Brandon Bass during the 2012 postseason—finding a way to feature in Philly's starting five at a bigger position might not be any easier. Collins was quick to note that Young needs a bigger, stronger player in the middle to mask his physical deficiencies.

The additions of Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown certainly accomplish that much, though it's now up to Collins to decide whether or not he wants to dominate the Eastern Conference with size, as starting Hawes could accomplish, or would prefer to surround his new centerpiece (i.e. Bynum) with speedy, versatile players of Young's ilk.

Not that Hawes is the sort of player who's going to body up with bulkier big men. He's more of a finesse forward who can pass and step out for 18-footers.

Like, say, a (really) poor man's Pau Gasol. Ask any Lakers fan how well the partnership between Gasol and Bynum worked out over the last four years.

Young can't quite measure up in that regard, but more importantly, starting him would only further weaken what's shaping up to be a defensively deficient front line. For all of his offensive skill, Bynum has yet to show that he can be a consistent force on the defensive end, if only because he lacks the focus and intensity that such requires.

No one player, be it Hawes or Young, can make up for that, at least not completely. The hope, though, is that a change of scenery, combined with Collins' emphasis on strong team defense, will move Bynum to step up his game in that regard.

In any case, power forward is hardly Young's preferred position. He's spent most of his NBA career there out of necessity and, it seems, will continue to do so as long as Evan Turner is around.

All of which, again, leaves Thad between a rock and a hard place—a wing buried on the depth chart or a not-so-big man playing out of position.

And, probably, on the bench, though that may not be such a bad thing. He averaged nearly 28 minutes per game as a reserve last season and should see as much, if not more, time on the floor starting this fall, at least until the rest of the roles on the roster are properly sorted out.

Moreover, the Sixers will need Young to lead their reserves now that Lou Williams is gone. His departure likely means more touches (and shots) for Thad, lest Doug Collins entrust the leadership of his second unit to another Young—Nick Young.

As such, Thad's status as a starter or a reserve has less to do with his own talents and abilities than it does with the needs of the team. He's certainly put in the requisite sweat equity to get what he wants.

But want doesn't factor into the equation unless it aligns with what the team must have to succeed. In this case, that means more time on the pine for Thad, albeit with a big part to play in Philly when the minutes matter most.


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