“He’s the new forward in the NBA right now,” head coach Nate McMillan said in reference to newcomer Thaddeus Young, while speaking on 1070 the Fan at the Pacers annual golf outing. “Five or ten years ago, we would’ve called that position the power forward. It’s the spread forward position, and I think he’s a legitimate spread four player.”
Interestingly enough, seven seasons ago, Thaddeus Young looked like he had all the makings of a new age power fauxward. During the 2009-10 season, he connected on a respectable 34.8 percent of his 138 attempts from behind the arc. Since then, his three-point accuracy rate has bottomed out at 12.5 percent on only eight attempts and peaked at 33 percent on 115 attempts with several seasons landing somewhere erratically in-between.
Without any discernible trend, it is difficult to pinpoint which extreme better informs on the lefty’s past performance from long-range. Darryl Blackport of Nylon Calculus found that it takes 750 attempts for a player’s three-point shooting percentage to stabilize. Over Young’s nine-year career, he’s launched a total of 792 shots from behind the arc, which puts him past Blackport’s estimated reliability threshold and indicates that his 31.9 percent career-mark is likely an accurate representation of who he’s been as a shooter, but not necessarily who he will be.
For instance, a positive change in the 28-year-old’s role has the potential to put him in a better position to make more of his next 750 threes.
"It depends on who the coach is," Young told Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth. "Some coaches give you freedom to do certain things and some coaches don't."
Last season, as Nets Daily’s Anthony Puccio explained in a Q&A with Indy Cornrows, 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.” Here, alongside Jeff Teague’s ability to drive-and-kick and Paul George’s gravitational pull, the expectation is that Young would have greater opportunity to be the recipient of easier, likely more open catch-and-shoot three-point attempts.
“We’re going to have to let him go there some,” McMillan told Montieth.
Given his penchant for inconsistency, letting Young go “there” in order to potentially open up driving lanes for Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis or unclog the paint when he plays next to Al Jefferson has the potential to be dicey, but it’s one of only a few options McMillan has at his disposal with the current roster’s dearth of shooting.
On the flip side, every shaky possession he spends beyond the arc is one he doesn’t use on the block, where he was one of only nine players in league the last season to shoot above 50 percent on post-ups (minimum 150 possessions). All of which seems to indicate that Young’s three-point field goal percentage needs to show marked improvement for him to stray away from the high-low game with Myles Turner more than rarely.
Two seasons ago, Rodney Stuckey credited post-practice shooting drills for why he shot a career-high 39 percent from the three-point line. According to Montieth, Young has been working on his perimeter shooting “after practice and on his own.”
Comparatively, Darrell Arthur, 6-foot-9, of the Denver Nuggets shot 38.5 percent from three in his first season wherein he attempted 115 or more three-pointers after having only connected on 21.7 percent of his attempts from that distance the prior season. Notably, Arthur was already a reliable mid-range shooter before he worked to extend his shooting range, the same cannot necessarily be said of Thaddeus Young:
Since past returns cannot perfectly inform on future results, it remains to be seen whether repetition will result in Young’s sustainable improvement from behind the arc. However, if he shoots 31 percent over his next 750 attempts, then it’s safe to assume that the Pacers will be in the precarious position of relying on their speed to outweigh their potentially leaky defense and lack of off-ball threats.
“The last couple of years,” McMillan explained on 1070 the Fan. “I think he’s a guy that is looking to really reinvent himself. He’s had a couple of years where the teams he’s played on, Minnesota and Brooklyn, they’ve been in transition. He’s very excited to join our team this year, and we’re looking forward to him having a good season.”
Unlike Young’s prior stops, the Pacers aren’t rebuilding. However, in their desire to play efficiently with pace, they are in a state of flux. For that transition to go as smoothly as possible, the 28-year-old’s reinvention of himself needs to be real.