Thad Young's output goes beyond the numbers

Thad Young's output goes beyond the numbers
January 29, 2013, 2:45 pm
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After 40 minutes of unadulterated effort, Thad Young nearly collapsed at the end of Monday night’s tough loss against Memphis at the Wells Fargo Center. According to coach Doug Collins, Young was “out on his feet” following his 23-point performance.

Young also shot 11 for 19 from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and had four steals in the game, but that hardly describes how valuable he was for the Sixers on Monday night. No, the biggest example of how well Young played was seen in Memphis’ side of the box score next to All-Star Zach Randolph’s name.

It read: Four points, seven shots. In fact, two of those points came at the end of the game on a tip-in so technically, Randolph got just one bucket on Young.

“I was very satisfied with my defensive output I put out there,” Young said after the 103-100 loss. “But overall, we have to win.”

The truth of it is it would take a lot of research to find a player in the NBA who has had tougher defensive assignments than Young this season. Monday night it was Randolph, who went into the game averaging 16 points and nearly 12 rebounds. That came two days after Young had to guard the league’s second-best scorer in Carmelo Anthony.

Averaging nearly 30 points, Anthony shot 8 for 28 against Young and the Sixers rolled to a 17-point victory.

In January, Young has been lined up against a veritable All-Star team. He’s had to guard Tim Duncan, Gerald Wallace, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and Ryan Anderson. Earlier this season Young was on Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion and Joakim Noah.

Through it all, Young has not missed a game all year and has logged 36 minutes per game. He's also averaging 15.0 points, just shy of his career-best of 15.3, and is ahead of pace for career-highs in rebounding (7.3), assists (1.7), steals (1.6), field goals, attempts and minutes.

Indeed, it’s been quite a consistent first half for Young.

“I have to keep an eye on him because he plays so hard,” Collins said. “That kid gives you everything every single night.”

But if there is one area of Young’s game where there could be a little bit of concern, it’s in his mid-range shooting. A solid shooter throughout his career from 20-feet, Young has struggled on shots from 16-feet and longer. After shooting those mid-rangers better than 40 percent throughout his career, Young’s misses stand out.

On shots longer than 16-feet, Young is 38 for 105 (36.2 percent). On shots from 10-to-15 feet and outside the paint, Young is 17 for 45 (37.8 percent). And though he is shooting a team-leading 52.1 percent from the floor this season, the misses have come at crucial times.

Against Memphis, Young missed a three-pointer from the corner with 1:51 remaining in the game that would have given the Sixers a six-point lead. He also missed a running hook in the lane with 3.9 seconds left that could have won the game for the Sixers.

Collins said he has no problem with the shot selection and feels comfortable with Young taking those longer shots. Sooner or later, Collins said, they are going to drop through the net.

“I think Thad is shooting the mid-range jump shot very well,” Collins said. “I feel very comfortable with Thad shooting the ball. I think he’s very confident shooting the ball.”

Instead, Young has been left to hang his hat on his effort and defense. Perhaps guarding the likes of Randolph, Anthony, Duncan, Durant, Gasol and the rest of them have taken a toll on Young’s shot?

“When guarding those guys you do have to sacrifice,” Young said. “They are going to come out and take shot after shot and most games the effort is spent trying to stop those guys or making it tough on them to get shots. Sometimes you’re not going to have it on the offensive end, so you have to be a facilitator instead of a scorer. Sometimes you have to give up something in order for your team to win games.”

Nevertheless, Young and Collins believe the shooting will come around. Actually, they said the shooting belies the statistics. In just 44 games this season, Young has nearly equaled his total in attempts over 65 games of last season.

But with the effort, the minutes and the tough opponents to guard night after night, when Young’s shot finally drops more often, it could take his game to the proverbial next level.

“It still feels comfortable, it’s just a matter of making of them,” Young said. “Some days you have those days where you don’t make them and sometimes you do.”