Why the Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett Part of the Kevin Love Deal Will Work for the Wolves and Sixers
Whether as part of the Kevin Love deal or as a followup to it, the Wolves seem to have everything queued up to pass on soon-to-be-officially-former Cavalier Anthony Bennett to the Sixers in exchange for Thaddeus Young. There could very well be a pick changing hands here as well, but reports aren’t entirely clear on that at this point and might not be until August 23rd, when Andrew Wiggins can legally be dealt and the remaining dominoes can subsequently fall.
Either way, all the necessary hands seem to have been shaken, so discussion about the fallout from this big blockbuster can commence in earnest. We’ve already established that the Kevin Love for Wiggins swap works well for both sides, so how does this secondary part of the deal affect the two teams involved?
Minnesota Gets a More Seasoned Player
President and head coach of the T’Wolves, Flip Saunders, is convinced that his team will compete for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference without Kevin Love. Considering that Minny hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in a decade, despite rostering two megastars at different points in it (Love and Kevin Garnett), this is about as likely to happen as when Dan Gilbert said that Cleveland would win a championship before Miami after the first Decision. It’s not that the Wolves won’t be a fun team to watch next season, but expecting a team that just got worse to jump into a playoff picture full of teams that mostly stayed the course or got better is a bit naive (ok, extremely naive).
There are so few proven commodities on this roster, and it makes them difficult to project. Some of the team’s best longterm prospects - like Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng - are very much in the development stage (Rubio may be entering his fourth year, but his scoring abilities are…suspect). That’s why it makes complete sense that the Wolves would move Bennett, another project, for a more proven commodity in Thad Young.
Young is a solid all-around player coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals (3rd in the NBA), and 0.5 blocks per game. In terms of shooting efficiency, the Wolves basically have two options on how to use him. He operated as a stretch four in years 2, 3, and 7 of his career, but his overall field goal percentage suffered. In years 1, 4, 5, and 6, he shot the three more sparingly and hit on over 50% of his shots from the floor as a result. Just look at the difference in those two periods:
|2, 3, 7||221||194||594||2.7||32.7%||47.1%|
|1, 4, 5, 6||295||14||53||0.2||26.4%||53.0%|
In other words, Young is a versatile, often underrated offensive player. On defense, his rim protection is a bit shaky for a power forward (he allowed a disgusting 60.2% at the rim last season, though the Sixers' awful team defense takes some of the blame there), but he’s a good off-ball defender that gets into passing lanes and disrupts opposing offenses. If the Wolves ever decide to move Nikola Pekovic and pair Young with Dieng (a better rim protector than Pek), they could make an interesting duo.
Either way, this deal makes sense for a team that wants one fewer project to nurture. What’s more, Young may be a seven-year NBA vet, but he’s still only 26 and in his physical prime. He has two years and $19.1 million left on his contract (with an opt out option after this season), so the Wolves get his bird rights and some potential salary flexibility in the coming future if he bolts, while having a solid forward for right now. One can’t help but wonder if they would’ve been better off going with the full rebuild and taking a chance on Bennett, but the reasoning isn’t hard to understand. Regardless, a starting five of Rubio, Kevin Martin, Wiggins, Young, and Pek, with LaVine, Dieng, and others coming off the bench will certainly be fun to watch, even if they don’t win a lot of games.
Philly Gets Yet Another High Upside Youngster
One team that certainly knows how to embrace the full rebuild is the Sixers. Young was the last player on their roster with a proven track record and was their oldest guy at only 26 years of age. By ridding themselves of the comparatively old fart, Philly now has an entire projected rotation of first, second, and third year players. No one expects the team to be competitive this year and the players will all be given ample time to work through their mistakes without the pressure of having to be good just yet.
That makes this the perfect place for Anthony Bennett. Last year’s first overall pick had the bust label thrown on him faster than just about any prospect in NBA history this past season. Admittedly, he was not very good at all, but he’s far from a lost cause.
Among 78 first-year players last season, he finished 75th in win shares (-0.4), 65th in win shares per 48 minutes (-0.028), and 59th in player efficiency rating (6.9). He shot an abysmal 35.6% from the floor and 24.5% from deep and only managed to earn 12.8 minutes per game on a fairly lousy Cavs team. Sure, it wasn’t great, but there were plenty of valid excuses.
His college-to-pros transition period was messy. Debilitating sleep apnea and a fairly serious shoulder injury caused the young Canadian to miss his first Summer League and start his rookie season out of shape. He also has a lot of unfair pressure on him to be good right away for being a first overall pick, but he comes from a terrible draft class and can’t really take the blame for the Cavs selecting him there.
In Philly, Bennett gets to hit the reset button. He’s the only serviceable power forward on their depth chart, so he should inherit all the minutes he can handle there next to Nerlens Noel. The Sixers run like they stole something (they led the league in pace at 101.62 possessions per game), so he will have a chance to put up fairly big numbers. He showed occasional signs of being able to stretch the floor with his long range shooting last season and has the makings of a good rebounder as well. He also looked spry and more in shape at this year’s Summer League, so he could be poised for a breakout year in a Sixer jersey. With a future core of last year’s Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams, Bennett, Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, the future is starting to look pretty good in Philly, even if the present isn't quite there yet.