The Nets got better at the trade deadline, plain and simple. The team acquired a young, athletic forward who is capable of taking over games and helping the Nets sneak into the postseason. Thaddeus Young is an undersized power forward who plays bigger than his height, and can stretch the floor for the Nets. Let's take a look at what he brings to Brooklyn on offense and on defense.
Young can do a little bit of everything on the offensive end. He can play in the post, using moves such as pump fakes and drop steps to free up space to the rim. Young has a quick release on the block, whether it be on layups, hook shots or floaters.
Though small for a traditional power forward-he stands 6'8" and weighs 220 pounds-Young is strong and smart. He is not afraid to kick out to a guard and repost or go at his defender. According to Synergy Sports Technology, this season, Young likes to post up on the left block-more than 65% of his post ups come from that side- and turn to his right shoulder. Young turns right on nearly 65% of his post ups and shoots about 45% on those attempts, and Synergy classifies this type of action as "average."
Young doesn't post up all too much, but he has the ability to. With his lack of size, Thad likes to face up and try and go by his defender with his underrated speed. It's not his most efficient type of offense, but he does that fairly frequently in terms of his overall post ups, according to Synergy. Young faces up more than 21% of the time on his total post ups.
As well, the new guy uses his mind to beat his opponents. He takes advantage of lax defense and beats the defense to the rim, like here with Kenneth Faried.
Where Young can thrive in Brooklyn is at the elbow. With Mason Plumlee becoming the lead center on the roster, Lopez has been pushed out to the foul line extended. While Lopez can hit set shots from as far as 18 feet out, he should return to the post, his native spot on the floor. With Young set to see big minutes in Brooklyn, he can take that spot away from Lopez and the longest tenured Net can return to the block. Young can get rid of the struggling Lopez-Plumlee duo, or at least marginalize it (that two-man lineup is the Nets fourth worst lineup this season in terms of plus-minus with a mark of -107 in 298 minutes). Against the Nuggets, Lopez and Plumlee played a total of 48 minutes, but not one second together.
Young is a capable scorer from mid-range, and comfortable shooting from there. According to Basketball Reference, Young is shooting 36% from 10-16 feet out, and 30% from 16 feet to the three-point line. Defenders need to respect Young from mid-range, and this could open up the paint for either Plumlee or Lopez.
The newest Net is also a fine dribbler for a player of his size. He is no Stephen Curry with the ball, but big men sometimes struggle to cover Young off the dribble. According to Synergy, when Young drives in isolation situations, either side, he drives to the basket 51% of the time. Going to the left, he scores more than 1.1 points per possession, and going right he scores 1.05. Both those marks are graded as "good" by Synergy. Young is a heady player who uses his body to get to the rim, and if he can get a nice driving lane while the Nets clear out, he may be able to take certain big men one-on-one to the rim. He also tends to get by his defender with a nice little euro-step, as seen here.
Young, as stated before, is undersized, but doesn't play like it-he's a thief on the floor. At the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in 2007, Young measured a 6'11.5" wingspan, according to DraftExpress, and Young uses all of it. He ranks 15 in total steals this season with 87. Last season, he was second in the league with 167 seats. Thad shows off his length here against Kevin Love.
Considering he plays against big men that don't always have a great handle on the ball, Young uses his length to tap the ball away and get going the other way. For a Nets team that lacks many stoppers for athletic bigs --Plumlee has been forced into that role-- Young will be welcomed with open arms. Young also thrives in stopping the other team in transition. He is always diving on the floor trying to tap the ball upcourt, and also does a great job of sliding in as a help defender to steal the ball away from a teammate's defender.
Young moves well laterally, and has the ability to stick to smaller point guards. Opponents have shot less than 36% on shots when Young switches onto the ball handler in the PNR, something that will help the Nets defense greatly.
Here, Young nearly times a steal at the beginning of the clip, but then switches onto former Suns guard Goran Dragic. Dragic, a quick guard, in most cases would blow by a big man, but not here. Young is too athletic for that. Dragic tries to set up a play, but Young is aggressive and takes the ball away from him. The Nets could uses this type of aggression.
The newly acquired Net is going to be forced into a lot of post ups, something he's been used to his whole career; he's an undersized four. However, Young has used his length to make trouble for opposing big men. The opposition is shooting a little above 47% on post ups this season when Young is defending them one-on-one, according to Synergy. And when the opponent decides to face up Young, which isn't all too much, they are most likely going baseline, because Young forces them there. This is a much better result than allowing the opponent to go to the middle, for the baseline is another defender and can make life much more difficult for the ball handler.
Young instantly makes this Nets team better on defense. He is an athlete who can defend three's and four's, the latter something the Nets have been struggling to do all year long. This also can rid themselves of forcing Plumlee into bad situations. Plumlee is a true 5, and while Lopez may play power forward on offense more often now, there is no way he is leaving the paint on defense unless there is a pick-and-roll. Young isn't a spectacular defender, but he is good enough to improve this Nets defense where they need help the most.
Brooklyn will still struggle to defend the pick-and-roll. While great at stopping the ball handler according to Synergy, they rank sixth in points allowed per possession to the ball handler of the pick, the team ranks 23rd in defending the roll man. Young doesn't have the size to really pose a threat to a big man that dives down to the rim, but it is a fact the Nets must live with because they are improving their interior defense and energy on that end of the floor. Young's ability to create transition opportunities can get players like Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack going, and lead to more buckets for Plumlee.
While Kevin Garnett was a formidable defender, Young could bring an immense upgrade to the former NBA champion. He has a great foundation and basketball mind, coupled with the necessary length and speed to keep up with power forwards, attributes KG lacked at this point in his career.
Overall, the Nets may very well fleeced the Timberwolves in this deal, setting aside the nostalgia factor. While it's understandable why Minnesota would want their history back and KG can be a mentor in the locker room, winning is far from the priority right now there. They let a fine player go in Thad Young.
Young is going to thrive in this Brooklyn setting, a place where the front office has seemingly wanted him to be all along. Assuming he is here for an extended period of time (Young has an ETO this summer), Young can be a key piece to Nets playoff runs of the future. His versatility will be welcomed immediately, especially with Mirza Teletovic out for the year and the Nets having to rely on fringe NBA players for about a month now.
Welcome Mr. Young, the man that may be the key piece to the Nets snagging a final spot in the postseason.
All Synergy Stats are from Young's time in Minnesota this season