Nary a week has gone by under Sam Hinkie's tenure as Philadelphia 76ers GM that Thaddeus Young hasn't been included in some trade rumor or another. As Philly's most in-his-prime veteran, on a reasonable contract and with a skill set that would make him an asset to just about any of the other 29 NBA teams, he's long been ticketed for the trade market for the super-rebuilding Sixers. The latest set of rumors has him going to the Minnesota TImberwolves, likely as a secondary transaction within the long-awaited Kevin Love deal between Minny and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Of course, rumors of such a deal invariably raise a whole number of questions. Let's do our best to answer the most pressing of them.
OK, we're getting kinda sick of these Sixers trade rumors that go nowhere. How legit is this thing?
Impossible to tell for sure, of course, but at least the reporting of it is coming from sources that are pretty credible. Marc Stein of ESPN had the story first, and he's probably one of the top three or four reporters in the game when it comes to NBA breaking news. And though he hasn't said anything about Thaddeus Young, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has more or less confirmed that Kevin Love will be dealt this summer, so that part of it seems like it should be happening regardless.
Why bother getting involved with all the Kevin Love trade nonsense? Why not just trade Thad directly to the Timberwolves?
A couple reasons. First, and most obviously, it makes sense to tie Thaddeus in with the Love deal because Minny is only really interested in Thad as Kevin's successor--if they don't end up trading the power forward, they have no real need for another. Minnesota would likely prefer to include Young within the Love deal so they can say to their fanbase "Well, we traded the best guy on the team, but hey, in addition to all these super-cool prospects we got from Cleveland the this deal, we also got this other power forward that you already know to be pretty good to replace him."
Secondly, the Wolves might need a third team in the deal anyway, to take on contracts that either Cleveland needs to get rid of in order to fit Love's max deal on their books, and/or contracts that Minny simply wants to get rid of in order to better their financial flexibility for the future. The Sixers are an ideal such third team, as a roster with near-infinite cap space--especially if Thad is to no longer be on the ledger--and no urgency to win now. Including Thad in the deal would simply improve the assets the Sixers could reasonably ask for from the two teams in any such three-way trade.
And finally, it behooves the Sixers to get in on the Cleveland deal because the Cavs have more things that we want than the Wolves. The only really attractive assets on the Wolves roster are rookie swingman Zach LaVine and second-year big Gorgui Dieng, neither of whom are likely to be traded. Everyone else is either too expensive, too old or just not that enticing. The Wolves also can't trade a future first-rounder until delivering a protected pick they already owe to Phoenix, so they're not much help there.
Secondary Minnesota assets like high-upside second-round pick Glenn Robinson III and tantalizing-but-frustrating frustrating third-year guard Alexey Shved may be available, but they're not enough to really build a trade around. Minnesota likely needs a third team to get the Sixers involved in either trading Thad or serving as a salary dumping ground.
So what do the Cavs have available that might make it worth the Sixers' while to trade Thad?
A bunch of stuff, actually. As previously discussed, third-year combo guard Dion Waiters could be of interest to GM Sam Hinkie, as a much-hyped prospect with remaining upside who technically fills a position of need for the Sixers. Waiters' potential is no doubt appealing to Hinkie, though the Turner-esque low efficiency of his scoring thusfar in his career and the reports of him being a locker-room disturbance may be red flags too glaring for the Sixers to ignore.
Perhaps a more interesting piece for the Sixers in any such deal would be previous #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett. The UNLV forward's salary would likely need to be included in any Love-based trade anyway, and with the Wolves already landing this year's #1 overall pick in Andrew Wiggins in such a deal, they might prefer an established player like Thad to another project forward like Bennett. After coming into camp badly out of shape, Bennett struggled mightily in his rookie season, but he looked much fitter in this year's Summer League and showed a great deal more of the scoring and rebounding skill he was supposed to have coming out of college, making him an intriguing upside play for Hinkie.
Also, remarkably enough for a team that's already seemed to have an infinite number of picks in the last four NBA drafts, the Cavs again could have as many as three first-round picks in next year's draft, any of which could be included in this deal. All three have a variety of protections and contingencies that devalue them somewhat, but you know how much Our Dark Lord loves his first-rounders. Dangling one or two of those bad boys in front of the Sixers could be enough to get them to part with Young.
Is it worth it, though? Do the Sixers even need to trade Thad at all?
Arguable. Everyone in the Sixers organization, from Hinkie to coach Brett Brown to his teammates, seems to love Thaddeus and value him highly, and for good reason. He's a versatile talent, a good and unselfish teammate, and a model citizen off the court. He's still just 26 years old somehow, and he's shown the ability to expand or contract his game as needed for the Sixers every year he's been here. He's exactly the sort of player the Sixers will need during their next period of contention.
Unfortunately, that period might be further away than Thad is willing to wait. Despite only being 26, Thad is already entering his eighth season as a Sixer, and he's only won one playoff series in that time. With Hinkie making it clear this summer that the Sixers are still in the teardown stage of the rebuilding process, Young is understandably reticent to spend another several years of his prime on a team that isn't even trying all that hard to win. He has an opt out in his contract after this season, and Liberty Ballers has reported that if still on the roster, he plans to use it.
So if Thad is soon to be gone anyway, may as well get something for him, right? Probably, though that doesn't mean this is definitely the best opportunity to do so. If Hinkie can get assets he legitimately covets for Young, then I imagine he'll do so, but if it's a platter of second-rounders and mediocre prospects being offered, he might be wise to hold out until closer to the deadline to see if a better deal comes along. You only get to trade Thad once, and there aren't a ton of other vets on the roster that Hinkie will be able to cash in on mid-season.
Plus, you never know. A surprisingly decent 2014-15 Sixers campaign, with a generous extension offer from Hinkie...Thaddeus wouldn't be the first discontented player to change his mind. Wouldn't bet on it, but it's still a possibility worth considering in any Thad-related trade equation.
All right, so what's the hold up with all this? Why can't they just make the trade or not make the trade already and we can all get on with our lives?
Annoyingly, because the Cavs were a little late in singing Wiggins and the rules say you can't trade a player until 30 days after he's signed, any proposed Love-for-Wiggins deal is likely held up until at least August 23rd. You may hear further rumors trickling out about the purported packages being sent out on any side in the days leading up to the 23rd, but deals can only be agreed upon in principle until then.
So we've got a couple weeks of holding on to do still. It's not like anything else is going on between now and then, though, so maybe it's for the best that we at least have something to talk about in Philly besides Joel Embiid's Twitter account.