Everyday it's becoming increasingly more difficult to understand how the Nets pulled off a trade that saw them get Thaddeus Young for Kevin Garnett's death rattle. With every thunderous dunk, athletic cut to the basket and clutch three-pointer, Billy King is seeming like some kind of ESPN trade machine sorcerer than the maligned general manager he's been in the eyes of many Nets fans.
Just looking at the numbers alone, it's obvious the Nets were the clear winners of the trade. In 42 games with Brooklyn, KG started 42 games and averaged 6.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game in 20.3 minutes played per game. The veteran also shot 45.5% from the field. That production is impressive for a 38-year-old, but left much to be desired.
In 23 games, and 15 starts, with the Nets, Young has averaged 14.3 points per game on 51.% shooting, including 40.5% from deep, in nearly 30 minutes per game. Young averages a about one rebound per game less than Garnett, but makes up for it with his solid if not stellar defense. Moreover, since the deal, KG's left knee has acted up. He isn't even dressing in Minnesota, missing his 16th straight game Tuesday and 19th out of 22 since the trade.
The numbers suggest that the Young-Garnett trade is like going to the car dealership and trading in your father's Oldsmobile for a brand new Camaro. Admittedly, King had some advantages. Young had told Minny's front office that he would opt out in July, meaning they would lose him for nothing. And Garnett has more than hinted he wants to become T-Wolves' owner. Still, it's hard to find a deal that has improved a contender more than this deal helped the Nets. And as King told season ticket holders last month, the deal was discussed off and on for weeks before getting serious three days before the trade deadline.
Young's value to the Nets can't be measured solely by his numbers, either. His insertion into the starting lineups has created ripple effects that have helped other Nets optimize their game, and helpedstay way from the less-than-efficient lineups he employed earlier in the season.
Take, for example, Brook Lopez. NBA pundits have marveled at Lopez's play the last month or so and they credit him as the main reason for Brooklyn's hot streak, and rightfully so. But, the biggest reason for Lopez's resurgence is Young. With Young playing alongside Lopez instead of Garnett or Mason Plumlee, there is significantly more spacing and Lopez has more room in the paint to work. Young's work with Lopez in the pick-and-roll has created many shot opportunities Lopez from mid-range and at the basket.
"We changed the dynamics of our team," Hollins said Monday: "Thaddeus has just been good for us since he’s been here. Kind of a garbage man. We run a few plays for him, but a lot of times, he’s just running the court, getting offensive rebounds and doing whatever he can to score."
Young, along with Markel Brown, has helped Deron Williams turn the clocks back as well. Young's athleticism and high-octane style of play fits more with Williams' style, and that's resulted in a much improved D-Will. Hollins said just that in an interview with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts last week.
"Deron is a good high-pace player," Hollins told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts. "He likes to push the ball, he likes to probe, to explore early. I think with the added quickness around him, he's been able to do that and we've been able to be effective with that."
The improved play of Williams has resulted in less playing time for Jarrett Jack. Jack, who impressed earlier in the season, has been brutal down the stretch and numbers (minus-319 on the season) suggest he's one of the most inefficient players in the NBA this season. Another ripple effect courtesy of Young.
While Lopez continues to get the spotlight, as well he should, Young will continue to quietly pull the puppet strings and lead the Nets as they ride their hot streak. Just remember, if the Nets make it into the playoffs, Lopez will justly get most of the credit, but Young is the true catalyst for this late-season run.
As for next year, Young has said all the right things about his new team and his player option. "From the first day it felt like home," Young said of Brooklyn. "I’ve been telling people all season long since I got here — I’m not really thinking of the option. I’m just playing basketball and in the summer we’ll see what happens."
Fine by the Nets.
- Thaddeus Young has saved the Nets and Brook Lopez - Tim Bontemps - New York Post