"(At) this point in my career, and I know the past two years with his situation," Al Jefferson said at his introductory press conference before motioning toward Thaddeus Young. "...I know we're hungry, and we want to make changes for ourselves."
The "situation" which Jefferson was referring to was Young enduring a sort of quasi-rebuilding purgatory in Brooklyn while the Nets won 21 games last season. After being stuck racing to the bottom of the Eastern Conference without an incentive for doing so, the 27-year-old has suddenly landed on a team with hopes of being a contender. Instead of discussing the need for repercussions in response to teammates showing up late for practice, Young is explaining how he envisions himself lessening the burden of a three-time All-Star while suiting up for a projected playoff team.
"Sometimes, he would have to guard certain guys the whole game, LeBron (James) or Carmelo (Anthony)," Young said at an introductory news conference, via the Indy Star's Nate Taylor. "Now he has the ability to kind of pass guys off to me. And I can guard those guys."
Not entirely sold that the 20th pick would bring the Pacers a player of Young's caliber, Bird banked on the lefty power forward's length and athleticism providing his assembled roster with the sort of versatility he's long-coveted.
Now that the dust has completely settled from the draft day swap, Anthony Puccio from Nets Daily has agreed to do a Q&A with Indy Cornrows to discuss exactly how well Thaddeus Young will fit alongside Paul George and Myles Turner.
At his introductory press conference, Kenny Atkinson referred to Thaddeus Young as "my guy," and the 27-year-old confirmed he had been commissioned to help his team recruit free agents. What do you think motivated the Nets to, rather abruptly, change course and flip Young's relatively cap friendly contract for the 20th pick in a bizarre and uncertain draft?
AP: I'm sure Kenny and Thad developed some sort of a relationship in the short time they had together. I can see Young being an Atkinson type of player in the sense that he's always in the gym and is committed to working hard. That being said, nothing is off the table with the Nets right now. Not if you're referred to as "my guy" by the coach or a "building block" by the GM. With the situation they find themselves in, they need to take risks. Was the trade a little bizarre? Yes. Many fans and insiders around the league think they probably could've gotten a little more for Young. But like I said, they need to take risks and I think they had their eyes set on Caris LeVert from the start and were essentially willing to do whatever it took to get him.
When Sean Marks took over for Billy King, implementing a culture of accountability seemed to be high atop the new General Manager's to-do list. Young echoed this call for change by telling Brian Lewis of the New York Post, "Sometimes guys would be late, and there were no repercussions from it. You need to have those types of things set and in place when you're trying to build a winning franchise and a winning team." Beyond publicly backing up the words of his new boss, were there any other signs or examples of Young's burgeoning leadership?
AP: With a young team like the Nets, I think Thad's leadership was displayed mostly in the gym. Being on time, getting there early and staying late to get jumpers in.
Young voiced his displeasure with coaching decisions earlier in the season, and when Lionel Hollins was fired and the Nets won their first game under interim coach Tony Brown, Young told reporters, "When your coach is not panicking and he's staying positive and he's continued to motivate us, it's huge for us as far as an energy standpoint. It makes us want to continue to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn't keep us thinking about what's happening before as much." I don't know if this necessarily epitomizes leadership - but I almost felt like Young had to say something because nobody else on the team would.
When Young was introduced by the Pacers earlier this month, he mentioned that he thought he could alleviate some of Paul George's defensive burden by enabling the two-way star to "kind of pass those guys off to me." Is it at all plausible that Young would be capable of guarding players like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in spurts, or is he more of a liability than he is versatile on that end of the floor?
AP: His defense was exposed with the Nets because they were one of the worst defensive teams in the league. He had his moments but it definitely wasn't one of his strongest suits. He has a lot of work to do if he wants to defend guys like LeBron or Carmelo. He can handle his own, but I really can't imagine he'll take that burden off Paul George.
Young only attempted 30 shots from behind the arc last season, is that because he was somewhat trigger shy from that distance or did Brooklyn's offense abandon having him pick-and-pop from three because of his low conversion rate (23%)? He sank 38 percent of his long-range tries in 2014-15, so is there any reason to believe that he could still develop into being a stretch option for the Pacers?
AP: Lionel Hollins tried the inside-out game with Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young the way he did in Memphis with Lopez playing the outside role of Marc Gasol and Young playing the gritty role down low like Zach Randolph. Like his defense, it's going to take a lot of time and effort in the offseason in order to improve. He's shown that he can be effective outside the paint so I don't see why he can't improve his three-point shot over time. However, would I put my money on him becoming a three-point shooter? No.
Young, who was one of only nine players in the league to shoot above 50 percent on post-ups (min. 150 possessions), was surprisingly effective operating out of the low block as a 6-foot-8 power forward. Yet, with Brook Lopez taking up space in the paint, post-ups only accounted for 15 percent of his possessions. Given this information, would Young's game be better maximized alongside Myles Turner, who is capable of creating space in the lane with his efficient shooting from mid-range extended? Or, is there something to be said for the fact that the Nets scored 103.9 points per 100 possessions with Young and Lopez on the floor together?
AP: As I just mentioned, Brook Lopez was playing most of his offense outside the paint, enabling Young to bang down low and get a lot of gritty buckets. Young should thrive alongside Myles Turner, and if Nate McMillan wants an up-tempo offense, Young is the ideal four in that type of system. He can run the floor just as well - if not better-- than any power forward in this league.
It's still too early to hand out draft grades or project which team won the trade, but do you, for any reason, anticipate the Pacers having buyer's remorse at some point in the near future?
AP: I don't think so. I see Young and the Pacers having a successful season, and they got him for a late first-rounder in a very skeptical draft. He's also very cheap in the new NBA. The trade won't be judged for another couple of years, but I can't see how anybody could fault Indiana for pulling this one. If I were to judge now, I'd say it was fair for both sides -- in the sense that both teams got what they were looking for. But if Young plays the way he did last season, this will be seen as a huge steal for Indy.