The Minnesota Timberwolves finalized an agreement Saturday to ship All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft.
This was no surprise, given stories this month about a verbal agreement between the clubs, but the details of the transaction are much clearer now — including the presence of a third team, the Philadelphia 76ers, in the deal. The Timberwolves not only snagged Wiggins and 2013 No. 1 overall selection Anthony Bennett from Cleveland, but also former 76er Thaddeus Young to help ameliorate the loss of Love.
A veteran who was stranded amid Philadelphia’s ongoing franchise overhaul, Young has been the subject of countless trade rumors over the past several seasons. It’s a fact that speaks as much to his on-court usefulness as his reasonable contract (he’s still owed $19.4 million over the next two years, although he can opt out before the 2015-16 season). Because he has played for usually mediocre Sixers teams throughout his career, largely coming off the bench during the team’s most successful stretch of 2010-11 and 2011-12, Young has remained under the radar nationally. But while he’s no Love, Young has quietly been a decidedly positive presence throughout his NBA career, and — as Yahoo’s Dan Devine put it — a darling among “a certain segment of NBA obsessives.”
In 2012-13, Young’s best statistical season, he scored with versatility and efficiency, ranking above the 75th percentile of all players (according to Synergy’s points per play metric) on both transition and half-court opportunities, which fueled a top-20 finish among qualifiers in effective field goal percentage. And though he only used an average percentage of Philadelphia’s possessions during his time on the court — Young has never been a huge scorer — he made his presence known in other ways, rebounding well for a non-center and playing above-average defense against multiple positions (both by adjusted plus/minus and Synergy’s metrics).
When at his best, the only major holes in Young’s game are his passing and lack of shooting range. That combination can be limiting in a league increasingly focused on small-ball skills from its big men, but Young is good enough in other areas to make himself a useful part to a good team. And although it seems like he’s been in the NBA forever, Young will be just 26 years old next season. While his 2013-14 season wasn’t as good as the one that preceded it — Young’s offensive efficiency buckled under the strain of a larger role, while his defense and rebounding also slipped — it’s tough to judge a down year too harshly when it comes on a team that lost 63 of its final 79 games. Young still garnered positive plus/minus marks at both ends of the court despite the trying campaign.
In Minnesota, Young will be part of another rebuilding project, and the popular prognosis is that the new-look Timberwolves, sans Love, will struggle in 2014-15. (For what it’s worth, though, our rough projection system suggests Minnesota — with Young — would be better than the ESPN Forecast’s 26-win projection.) Young probably deserved a better fate, but his skill set and still-in-his-prime age means he’ll either help a fledgling Wolves team buck those odds, or he’ll be sought-after in next summer’s free-agent market.