Thad Young might be stuck with Sixers for a bit

Thad Young might be stuck with Sixers for a bit
June 30, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Thaddeus Young's $9.4 million cap hit in 2014-15 could make him difficult to trade for anything of value. (AP)

It is a divisive plan, one that has been debated and discussed with no ground given by either side. The pro-Sam Hinkie people do not understand the anti-Sam Hinkie people. Soon, they will rise up against each other in the first hoops civil war. The basketball battleground will be pocked with scorched advanced metric sheets and tattered pictures of Doug McDermott. No one will be safe.

The collateral damage is already pronounced. Thaddeus Young slogged through a brutal campaign with a rag-tag crew of raw recruits. The losses piled up. He made it through, but any promise of brighter days and reinforcements was quickly extinguished during last week’s draft. The Sixers will not reverse course. The situation will not get easier anytime soon -- not for the fans or the current players. Not for Thad Young. He might very well be forced to endure one more tour.

Hinkie has explained his strategy to the town and the team. He is aware of the objections, which is not quite the same as being sympathetic to them. Asked how he might sell the plan to Young, Hinkie replied that he’s been open with him all along.

“We talked a lot about stability,” Hinkie said, “and how he can sort of play a role there, and how we thought he had real value to us as a veteran on this team, as a leader for us, as a leader of teaching all these young guys how to be pros and how the NBA works and sometimes how the world works.”

The NBA and the world work in similar ways. They are sometimes cruel places where good deeds go unrewarded. Young suffered last season, but he did not complain. Not overtly. Not in public. Some of his teammates were paroled from basketball purgatory. Evan Turner was sent off to Indiana, and Spencer Hawes was dispatched to Cleveland. They didn’t yield great returns for the Sixers, but they also didn’t have great value. Young remained.

This is the unfortunate byproduct of Hinkie’s plan. Young may be stuck here a little while longer. Last year, he averaged career highs in points, assists and steals per game, and he reminded everyone that he can shoot the three at times when given the opportunity. The counting stats were no doubt inflated by the system and the dearth of other options, and he wasn’t a terribly efficient shooter, but Young demonstrated versatility. He’s only 26. He handled a difficult situation with grace. In theory, all of that should be attractive to other teams, particularly contenders looking for a solid rotation player. And maybe it is -- but that doesn’t necessarily mean Young would fetch fair value. He might be worth more to the Sixers if they keep him around.

Before the draft, it seemed possible that Young would be traded. In a podcast, Chad Ford suggested that Charlotte might be interested in Young for the ninth pick. The Hornets/Bobcats made the playoffs last season and hope to continue their forward momentum. That seemed high, even if the rationale made sense. All things equal -- considering his age, skill set and personality -- Young should be worth a mid-to-early first-round pick.

But all things are not equal. Not with the new CBA, which has altered the market for veterans on expiring deals. (Young can opt out of his contract next offseason.) Those used to be attractive pieces for teams looking to shed salary in the near future. Now more teams are carrying extra cap space. As Zach Lowe rightly pointed out, it’s tougher now than ever before to flip veterans on soon-to-lapse contracts -- even affable, versatile veterans -- for first-round picks. That used to be a common transaction. With the new rules, it’s become increasingly rare. Not to mention that Thad isn’t without value to a team that will be mostly young and raw. Again.

Hinkie praised Young for being hard-working and possessing high character. He also lauded Young’s ability to “guard several positions” and “shoot it way better than the world thought.” Which is fine. But we’re all familiar with Hinkie’s stance on asset acquisition and team building. If another team offered the Sixers a good deal for Young, Hinkie would no doubt move his hard-working, high-character player. Again, it’s about value in as opposed to value out -- which is why Young might be in for now.

Young has a cap hit of $9.4 million this year. If he doesn’t opt out next year, his cap hit goes up to $9.97 million. His contract isn’t the bargain it used to be. The odds are probably still in favor of him getting moved before the deadline, but if they can only get something like 60 cents on the dollar, it’s not unthinkable to imagine the Sixers trying to convince him to stick around.

“Every player gets to the point that winning is paramount and is all that matters to them for very obvious reasons,” Hinkie said. “At the same time, I’ll say Thad, when we talked to him behind the scenes, there’s also some level of excitement about what could be. He’s often trying to figure that out as well -- what could be and when could that be and what would my role look like? I think even he sees there’s a little push/pull.”

Young seemed less excited in front of the scenes. And there was speculation that he will opt out of his contract next offseason. But a lot can happen between now and next year. In the interim, does Hinkie expect Young to be here this year?

“I do,” Hinkie replied.

Lucky Thad.

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