Sixers' Young faces uncertain future

76ers forward Thaddeus Young. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
76ers forward Thaddeus Young. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Posted: April 19, 2014

Thaddeus Young, who probably felt like the only shipwreck survivor still stranded on the beach this season, said he's going to wait until after the draft to have his big talk with 76ers management.

Young wants to see what the team does on draft night and gauge for himself how long this rebuilding process might really take. He has played seven seasons for an organization that has had five head coaches, four general managers, and two ownership groups during that span. Through it all, he has waited for the one thing that means something to him.

"I just want to win," he said Thursday, as the team packed up after a season-ending win over Miami on Wednesday night that closed its record at 19-63. "It got very hard. It got very frustrating at times.

"I hate losing. When you walk out of there on the losing end each and every night, it's hard to take," the 2007 first-round pick said. "We're building a team through the draft, and it could definitely lead to something down the line. But I'm not sure how far down the line."

The team will be more interesting, perhaps, but it won't be truly competitive next season. That's part of the plan, since the Sixers would relinquish a first-round pick promised in the Arnett Moultrie deal if they make the playoffs next season.

After that, who knows? It could be another season or two before things come together, and longer than that before the team is ready to legitimately compete for a championship.

Young looks at the landscape and realizes this, but he figures he has some leverage in the form of a player option after next season that would allow him to opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

Leverage cuts two ways, however, and that option also makes it more likely that the Sixers will move Young rather than chance losing him for nothing in return. If Sam Hinkie's aggressive term as general manager has taught us anything, it is that when Thad Young chats with his GM after draft day, it might be the GM of another team.

"I do have the opt-out, and that's one of the cards that can be played if the situation is not right," Young said. "I can opt out next year. I can ask to be traded. Or I can say, 'I'm all for it. I want to stick around.' I just have to see how things are going to play out."

It's almost touching that Young thinks the decision will be his. In fact, it won't. The Sixers will either sign him to a contract extension that suits them, or they will trade him. That's just good business, and Hinkie is all about good business. Young might get a little extra consideration because he was an incredibly good solider this season, but not enough to sway the final judgment.

"He's a gentleman. He's a class act," coach Brett Brown said. "He lost three friends in the middle of the season and still found enough dignity and human components to lead us."

The organization clearly values Young as a good influence in the locker room, but what it thinks of him as a basketball player is unknown. He remains a tweener on the court, not imposing enough to be a dominant power forward and not elusive enough to be a starting small forward. On a very good team, he might be a bench player who brings energy and defense and can spell starters at both positions.

We know this much about how the organization views Young: It didn't worry the Sixers would win too many games if it kept him this season. Jrue Holiday, sent off during last year's draft, could win games by himself. Evan Turner, traded to Indiana with Lavoy Allen, could win games by himself. Spencer Hawes, traded to Cleveland, provided frontcourt stability that could win games.

Young got left behind on the trade deadline, and the tanking plan still hit its stride.

"We were all being shopped," Young said. "I think it's a big thing they kept me, of course, even though it was one of those situations where you feel a little left out."

Other teams noticed who was left behind, too, and even though some of Young's overall averages improved this season, his numbers were a wavering reflection of the frantic pace of the games. His shooting percentage was the lowest of his pro career, and his rebounding average fell from 7.5 to 6.0 per game. Some of that was due to Brown's encouragement for Young to expand his range and try more three-point shots, but Young's two-point shooting percentage fell below 50 percent for only the second time in his career and the first time since 2009-2010. Aside from dunks, layups, and other shots within three feet of the basket, his shooting was pretty awful. (Young's success on shots 3 to 10 feet from the basket was 37 percent.)

"They're putting their GM hats on, and I have to put my GM hat on also," Young said of his situation. "Coach tells me every day he appreciates how I handled things. I didn't go south. I continued to stay on the path, to stay on the course."

The path will bend and wind its way through this offseason and into the second season of the project. Young says he will follow along if he can and if it makes sense.

But the reality is that the path may lose Thaddeus Young before he loses the path.


bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports


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