It only took 15 years — an eternity in the NBA landscape — but Thaddeus Young (overwhelming positive) finally found his way to the Toronto Raptors via a perfect trade with the San Antonio Spurs that saw the much maligned Goran Dragic (gaping negative) finally shipped out to a Texas locale that wasn’t on his list of choices. This isn’t about Masai Ujiri, but wow, shoutout to Masai forever.
Though I loathe to digress when it comes to ragging on Dragic or praising Masai, this is all about Thad, who comported himself immaculately and seemed to relish in the role of “Ultimate Veteran Presence”, the UVP as it were. Having said that, the Toronto Raptors were not short on strong voices in their locker room during the 2021-2022 season. They featured recent graduate of the Kyle Lowry School of the Absolute Hardest Knocks, Fred VanVleet and the fearless, lead by example, multiple All-NBA wunderkind, Pascal Siakam. Rambunctious Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes was no doubt a “heard commodity” in the locker room as well, but there is something to be said for the quiet, sage-wisdom of the “old head,” hard knocks, seen it all, been-there-before leadership of a guy like Young. A guy who Raptors fans have been clamouring to have on the squad since his early days in Philly.
While it got off to a bit of a rocky start with the Raptors losing 3 of 4 games upon his arrival by 30, 32 and 27, Young was thrust into one of the more complex schemes in the NBA under Nick Nurse and expected to pick it up immediately. Did that stop Thad? Absolutely not. After finding a minutes-groove with Nick Nurse — only above 20mpg once after the walloping's — the Raptors went 14-4 to close out a season that saw them well exceed expectations, finishing 5th in the Eastern Conference. The fact that it only took Thad the All-Star break to find his way in Nurse’s system is remarkable in and of itself, but it was how he melded into that system that was so impressive.
Routinely, a commercial break would cut away with a shot of the Raptors bench and you could see Thad in the ear of a young Dalano Banton, Scottie Barnes or OG Anunoby. He was a mainstay in the aftermath of the huddle; one extra word in an ear that, no doubt, will be looked back on by both younger players and veterans on last year’s roster with a quick chuckle or a warming of the heart. Thaddeus Young exudes comfort, and his presence on the bench was immeasurable not only to the current status and standing of these Raptors, but to the span of their careers — ripples that should reverberate throughout their lengthy journeys.
Quite possibly, nobody felt that reverberation more than Chris Boucher, who developed near-instant chemistry with the wily veteran.
the most underrated part of these two games: the thad young to chris boucher connection pic.twitter.com/8iUGpUvB0F— William Lou (@william_lou) April 26, 2022
As part of the new bench mob, Thad, Boucher and Precious Achiuwa ran amok on opposing 2nd units. Their high-energy, back-cut-filled offense, coupled with an on-a-string, read and react defense was one of the many true joys to witness during a largely found-money season for Toronto. And while it remains to be seen whether Thad will be back in Raptors red (and black, white, purple, gold, etc.) in 2022, Toronto fans will have plenty of smiles on their faces and warmth in their hearts when they look back on the residence that Thaddeus Young took up on in Toronto.
Season 15 was full of ups and downs, but coming to Toronto was definitely an incredible experience! Thank you all for welcoming my family and I to this amazing country! #WeTheNorth https://t.co/bojrAO0q2D— Thad Young (@yungsmoove21) April 30, 2022
Thank you, Thad.