EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

What Thaddeus Young does and does not do for the Phoenix Suns

Feb 13, 2024, 11:39 AM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 3:28 pm

Thaddeus Young, Raptors...

Thaddeus Young #21 of the Toronto Raptors passes the ball during the second half of a game Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena on January 09, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The possibility of Thaddeus Young joining the Phoenix Suns has floated as a hypothetical among the team’s fans seemingly for the past decade.

Most recently, Phoenix was tied to the then-San Antonio Spurs forward before the start of their 2021-22 campaign while coming off an NBA Finals run.

Then, it was about giving Phoenix a ball-moving big who thrived under Monty Williams’ .5 offense, as had Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky. Now a few years later, a Frank Vogel-led Suns team reportedly has done the deed and agreed to sign Young, who was traded by the Toronto Raptors and then bought out by the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline.

The first question is whether this is a move that could actually change the rotation.

The answer is maybe!

Young was atop the list of buyout candidates because he was the rare threading of the needle of a guy who was still in a team’s rotation — even if the Raptors are flat out not good this season — and affordable from Phoenix’s standpoint. Only two or three more players on the market fell into that category.

Young is 35 years old. He doesn’t move as he once did and has 32,923 minutes in the regular season plus 1,577 more in the playoffs on his body. But that can be a good thing, too. In summation, he’s a true role player who can do a little bit of everything, which is why you will see wildly specific stats like this:

Here’s how Young can potentially help the Suns. And also how he can’t.

What are the Suns getting in Thaddeus Young?

It starts with the ball-moving abilities. Even though Young averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 assists in 15.2 minutes over just 23 games for Toronto, he did post an assist percentage of 19.6, meaning he assisted a teammate on nearly a fifth of all field goals made while he was on the court.

It’s a pretty damn high rate for a non-perimeter role player on a bad team.

The Suns will gladly use him as a connector as they do starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who has better on-off splits this year than Devin Booker. Young will set screens and catch on short rolls, where he can either finish or make the correct read.

The latter is where you can see how he could help a spaced-out Phoenix squad by spraying the ball back out or hitting cutters.

Better still, Young’s assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.4-to-1. He probably won’t add to the turnover woes for the sixth-worst turnover team this season.

The actual scoring from Young is still there, too. While he’s really worked on the ball-moving this season, he’s shooting 62% overall, mostly scoring at the rim with his hook arsenal that makes up for his lack of leaping pop at this point in his career.

Young has been assisted on 76% of his shots and only taken six threes all year.

On the defensive end, he’s consistently been atop the league in deflections per game in his career. Young still is in the top-50 of deflections per 36 minutes (3.7), notably a tick higher than players such as Suns guard Josh Okogie (3.6), Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama (3.6) and former Phoenix pest Jevon Carter (3.5).

He knows where to go, how to help and where to be, using his length in defending pick-and-rolls to make ball-handlers make timid commitments.

There is recent evidence he can hang laterally.

Chet Holmgren is a new-age center and not a perimeter star screaming over the top of a screen, but still, there’s evidence Young can hold up just fine in places where Drew Eubanks (too slow) and Bol Bol (too inexperienced) might not.

What not to expect from Thad Young

Does Young become the backup center immediately? Don’t jump to that conclusion just yet.

Vogel has tinkered enough to this point to know the Suns will probably get Young minutes when the matchup makes sense, but Eubanks still factors in as a more physical body and better rebounder. The rebounding has been poor in spurts, and putting Young as a small-ball 5 doesn’t necessarily fix that issue.

Young probably can’t play alongside Eubanks or Nurkic as a more traditional power forward much, but Young’s role in place of Bol as a backup 5 or alongside Bol as a 4 is doable. Functionally, Young playing well could threaten Bol’s minutes as much as Eubanks’ playing time — but both the numbers and the eye test say that Eubanks is at greater risk.

Floor-spacing concerns all come with an asterisk regarding Young’s shooting. He’s had moments and even hit the 40% accuracy mark from three in 2021-22 with the Raptors when he took 1.7 shots from deep per game. He’s just taken that out of his toolbox lately.

It’d also be surprising if Young was part of any closing unit just because of his 66% foul shooting. But you’re not signing buyout guys to close for you.

The Young signing was about options and versatility. The Suns certainly got that and a true rotation piece. Not bad.

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What Thaddeus Young does and does not do for the Phoenix Suns