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Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors

Player Preview: Thad Young, professional glue guy

Thaddeus Young has worn many hats over his 15-year career. With Toronto, he’ll continue wearing more than one, all in the name of producing winning basketball.

Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Chris Bosh was the All-Star that bridged the gap between the Vince Carter and Demar Derozan/Kyle Lowry eras. He led the Toronto Raptors to two playoff series but was meant for bigger things in Miami.

Damon Stoudamire was the original G.R.O.A.T. whose Rookie of the Year award was supposed to be an omen of the new franchise’s blossoming future. Unfortunately, he only lasted 2.5 seasons before (requesting and) getting traded to Portland.

By the time Jalen Rose was traded to the Raptors, he was 31 and approaching his decline. That didn’t stop him from leading the team in scoring in his first full season with Toronto (a squad, mind you, that also had Bosh and Carter).

So, what do three of the best left-handed players in franchise history (sorry Morris Peterson, you didn’t quite fit the narrative I’m going for) have in common with Thaddeus Young?

Nothing and everything.

Young will never be an All-Star. Young will never be considered the greatest Raptor of all-time. Young will never lead the Raptors in scoring.

He does, however, possess similar traits as each of those great lefties that will serve him well — as well as the team — throughout his Raptors tenure.

Thad the Transporter

When Young was acquired last season from San Antonio, he wasn’t following Bosh’s footsteps in terms of bridging eras.

He’s actually bridging lineups.

When looking at 4-man lineups, post-All-Star break (minimum 20 minutes played together), here are the top seven lineups, based on Net Rating:

  1. Siakam-VanVleet-Anunoby-Achiuwa
  2. Young-Birch-Boucher-Barnes
  3. Young-Siakam-VanVleet-Anunoby
  4. Siakam-VanVleet-Anunoby-Boucher
  5. Young-Birch-Siakam-Trent Jr.
  6. Young-Boucher-Barnes-Trent Jr.
  7. Young-Siakam-Flynn-Barnes

Thad Young appears in more lineups (5) than anyone else. Before you chalk this up to the others sharing the floor with him, let’s look at smaller lineup sizes. Here are the top five 3-man lineups (same parameters as above):

  1. Young-Anunoby-Boucher
  2. Young-Anunoby-Barnes
  3. VanVleet-Anunoby-Achiuwa
  4. Young-Anunoby-VanVleet
  5. Young-Flynn-Trent Jr.

Thad and O.G. show up in four of the five lineups and — surprise — they’re also the highest-rated duo on the team! What’s particularly interesting about these lineups is that a) none of them include a variation with all starters and b) Young thrives with both starters and reserves.

Dad Young isn’t going anywhere

If you clicked the link above and read about Stoudamire’s regrets about leaving Toronto... thank you for coming back to this post! If you didn’t click the link, Stoudamire’s decision to leave was tied to Isiah Thomas’ departure. Since Isiah was being ousted, Damon wanted to support the man that believed in (and drafted) him.

When the Raptors traded for Thad Young, he was a 15-year veteran with an expiring contract. Despite how well he fit in, the Raptors season ended the same way his other 14 seasons ended — without a trip to the Conference Finals (let alone the NBA Finals or winning a title). You certainly could not fault him if he opted to play the same role as key reserve... except for a title contender.

But he didn’t.

“The plan was always to go back. I talked to Masai and Bobby and they basically said, ‘this isn’t a one year thing, we want to make this for a couple more years.’”

In addition to fortifying the bench and locker room presence, by accepting a team-friendly contract, Young’s deal allowed the Raptors enough space to re-sign Chris Boucher AND shore up their outside shooting by signing Otto Porter Jr.

Young even played a key role in convincing Porter to come to Toronto.

Thagic Johnson returns

Like Jalen Rose before him, Thad Young joined the Raptors in his early 30s and made an immediate impact playing the way he’s always played. For Rose, that meant getting buckets. For Young, that meant crashing the glass, flexing his defensive versatility, and making plays.

Last season, the average age of Toronto’s roster (24.8) was the youngest among all East playoff teams. Thad Young was the only player born in the 80s. He’s played more regular season games than the three longest-tenured Raptors (VanVleet, Siakam, and Anunoby) COMBINED. If VanVleet is the floor general with the starters, Young is the leader of the young reserves.

For years, Thaddeus Young’s name would appear in rumours surrounding the Raptors. He may have joined the team in the twilight of his career but that doesn’t hide the characteristics he shares with some of the best lefties to wear a Raptors jersey. On any given night, he can crash the glass like a young Chris Bosh, zip a pass through a tiny hole like Mighty Mouse, or utilize his veteran savvy to get buckets like a not-quite-past-his-prime Jalen Rose.

Young can be whatever the Raptors ask him to be. Even in his mid-30s, Thad has a chance to cement his name in Raptors lore! Not bad for a franchise that’s seen its fair share of impact lefties!

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