He might have gone under the radar, but Thaddeus Young is having a nice season. The Chicago Bulls have been better than their record suggests. Young has played good basketball alongside a talented young core.
Chicago’s record might make them hesitant to trade Young. He’s owed $14 million next season, and with how he’s played in 2020-21, they could view him as a useful piece in the second half of this campaign and the next. The Bulls, though, are not in contention, nor will they be next season. Trading Young for a pick or a youngster with upside would still make sense for Chicago, even if they hold play-in ambitions in 2021.
While the upcoming free agent class isn’t as exciting as it was, the Bulls might also be happy to free up some cap space. Young is in his age-32 season. Could the Bulls shift his salary mid-season and pursue a younger player on a longer deal this summer?
Young has value to a good team. He might be shooting the ball less and making just 25% of his threes, but he remains an above-average defender. He can guard at least three positions. Chicago has upped his ball handling responsibility, using him in a similar role to Draymond Green. The result is a career-high in assists. His 24.7% assist rate is almost double his previous career best.
Biggest improvement in team NRtg when on the floor:
1. Rudy Gay +19.9
2. Mike Conley +19.2
3. Patty Mills +19.0
4. Kawhi Leonard +18.2
5. Richaun Holmes +17.9
6. Jakob Poeltl +17.5
7. Denzel Valentine +16.9
8. Thaddeus Young +16.2
9. Joel Embiid +15.9
10. Jerami Grant +15.7
— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) February 10, 2021
Cutting down on threes, Young is also scoring more efficiently than ever before. His win shares per 48 are the second-highest of his career – only his age-23 season in Philadelphia was better.
Young has changed his game. He’s different, and he’s better than he’s been in previous seasons. If the Bulls put him on the trade block, there will be no shortage of potential suitors.
Potential Thaddeus Young trades
The Brooklyn Nets are desperate for depth. They need more options in the frontcourt, despite their desire to embrace small ball. Young was traded by Brooklyn a few seasons ago, but he’d be an ideal complementary piece on this roster. His lack of perimeter shooting is not a concern for a team with such offensive firepower. Brooklyn needs his defense, his rebounding, and they need players who will make the right play.
Young has everything the Nets need. He could play the five or four, and the Nets still have second-round picks to throw into a trade. Build a deal with Spencer Dinwiddie‘s salary and a couple of seconds and Brooklyn can land another experienced frontcourt player.
Thad Young with a pivot-pivot-pivot-pivot-pivot move in the post. pic.twitter.com/oDyRfGvlww
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) February 9, 2021
With an historic trade exception, the Celtics are at the forefront of trade rumors. Young isn’t the big-bodied five they might desire, but he would help the Cs. Like Brooklyn, Boston doesn’t need more shooting – they can benefit from Young’s defense and passing, and absorb him into that trade exception without weakening their roster. Failing that, they could throw Tristan Thompson and a young player into the deal to preserve the TPE for a bigger acquisition.
Continuing the Eastern Conference theme, the Miami Heat have a vacancy at the four. Maurice Harkless has not filled the Jae Crowder-shaped void. Young can’t shoot it as well as the Heat would like alongside Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, but he would help them markedly on the defensive end.
Calling up fellow East teams is probably the best way to go if the Bulls opt to trade Young. A couple of West teams, including the Nuggets, would be a good fit, but there are not obvious workable trade packages.