The glamor of what hoped and seemed like yet another second half run to the playoffs has worn off considerably over the past week for the Brooklyn Nets. Yet one thing has remained constant since the All-Star break, Thaddeus Young can play.
We know that Young has brought the Nets some much needed athleticism and energy on the floor, but he has also filled a void that has been gone since the end of January when Mirza Teletovic was lost for the season with multiple blood clots in his lungs, outside shooting.
After Teletovic, a key cog in the Nets bench unit, went down, the Nets were lacking outside shooters at the four and the five. Brook Lopez began to play out towards the three-point line, but 18 feet seemed to be his ceiling. Cory Jefferson is a developing three-point shooter, but he can't be trusted from beyond the arc. Most recently, Joe Johnson has taken over duties at power forward, but he is no true 4 despite his size ... and seems much worse the wear for it.. Now, Young has come to Brooklyn and brought over his three-point shot with him and then some!
As I chronicled in my film study of how Young will fit in with the Nets, Young is a capable mid-range shooter, and has the ability to hit from beyond the three-point line, so he needs to be respected by defenders.
"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."
Yet, no one could've pictured the start of Young's tenure in Brooklyn going like this. In eight games with the Nets, Young has hit on eight of his 14 three-point attempts, a small sample size sure, but it is in the manner he does it in that is intriguing.
Opponents have been giving Thad uncontested looks from beyond the arc in his eight games in Brooklyn. Here are a few examples of the newest Net getting easy looks because the defender is either preparing for Young to drive or they are reacting to a guard's drive.
In clip one, Josh Smith stays back to be a safety net in case Joe Johnson goes to the rim or pulls up for his patent floater. Johnson kicks to Jarrett Jack who quickly swings it to Young, who is open from three. Smith doesn't even both closing out.
In the next two clips from the Nets best win of the year against the Golden State Warriors—which Young was an integral part -- Draymond Green stays back to help the Warriors defend drives by Jack. Green, thinking Young isn't that great of a shooter ... and it's fine to leave him out there ... gets burned not once, but twice by the kid from Memphis. (The first shot, there isn't much time on the shot clock, but still, Green sinks in way too far).
It's a great asset for the Nets to have, considering a lot of their rotational guys aren't three-point shooters. Jack, if he doesn't take two dribbles in and pulls up from 16 feet, is not an efficient scorer from behind the three-point line, as his shooting percentage shows. Deron Williams is average at best from there. Markel Brown is not a good bet to hit from behind the line yet, and Alan Anderson is on a game-by-game basis in regards to his three-point shot. That leaves Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Johnson as the Nets only true three-point threats in the rotation right now. With the loss of Teletovic, the Nets can finally get on track from three.
It's worth noting that there seems to be no in-between game for Young; it's either the rim or the three-point line. He is taking 29% of his shots at the rim, 33% from three-to-10 feet, 9% from 10-16, 8% from 16 feet to the foul line, and then 19% from beyond the arc. Not to mention he isn't shoot well from the mid-range in Brooklyn, but it's a small sample (28% and 16.7%, respectively).
With Teletovic gone, the Nets have been looking for a spark plug off the bench (Young started the Nets game on Sunday), and Young has brought them that energy and has also added some much needed shooting. It has also taken a little bit of pressure off of Joe Johnson. Johnson has not been himself over the past several games most likely due to fatigue.
As Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game points out that Johnson has been battling tendinitis in both his right knee and left ankle, and a career of heavy minutes may be starting to takes its toll. "He's logged 36,546 minutes in 956 games since 2003-04 -- a number second only to LeBron James' 41,916 in 1,053 games -- and it's a challenge to keep himself completely refreshed," Kharpertian writes.
Since the break, Johnson has played two less minutes per game, which isn't a big difference, but it shows that Young is taking some minutes away from Johnson and for good reason. Since Johnson has been transitioned into a power forward, his body will only take more of a beating banging around with bigger guys in the post.
The sample is small, and it is early, but Thad Young has proven to be the asset the Nets need to succeed with his ability to stretch the floor and somewhat surprising three-point results.
This article was written before the Nets game Sunday against the Utah Jazz, where he went 1-o-2 from deep.