The Minnesota Timberwolves have officially completed the Kevin Love trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the final version of the deal, the T’Wolves are sending out Love, Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved, and a first-round pick in the three-team deal, and will receive Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and Thaddeus Young.
For the Timberwolves, Wiggins is the obvious centerpiece of the deal; he’s the player with the most potential of anyone included in the trade, and he’s the best bet to be the next big thing in Minnesota. However, Young probably represents the most perplexing piece the Timberwolves will receive.
Young is one of the biggest enigmas in the NBA. He’s a 6’8″ left-handed power forward who has the body of a wing but the game of a stretch 4.
He’s a fairly mediocre rebounder, and while he has some shooting ability, he’s incredibly inconsistent from 3-point range. He’s been a sixth man, then a starter, then relegated to the bench, then promoted to start again.
And last season, he was forced to play completely out of his comfort zone as the best player on a 19-win team in Philadelphia. All of these things make Young’s value for the Timberwolves difficult to evaluate.
Young has spent much of the last few seasons as a go-to guy for Philadelphia, and especially last season, suffered greatly because of that. Before that he was mostly a bench player, and seemed to be much more effective in that role.
For Minnesota, Young will almost certainly be a starter, and log a ton of minutes in a new role, as a primary stretch 4 next to a giant center in Nikola Pekovic.
Throughout his career, Young has established two quality skills that have carried out regardless of his team situation. Offensively, Young has been a very successful slasher, and is one of the better rim finishers in the league.
Here’s his 2012-13 shot chart via Nylon Calculus, which shows an 83 percent success rate at the rim. That’s outstanding.
Defensively, Young has also been a quality player for most of his career. Young covers a lot of ground on the defensive end, and can defend small forwards and power forwards well thanks to his athletic ability.
Young isn’t quite at the level of some of the top defenders in the league, but he’s quite good on that end. Young’s defensive real plus-minus, for example, was +0.85, despite the Sixers being outscored by 8.3 points per game while he was on the floor.
That speaks to how bad Young’s teammates really were last year.
Beyond that, however, it’s hard to project what Young will bring to the Timberwolves, especially when you consider how truly bad this past season was for him. Without former All-Stars like Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday around, Young’s usage exploded to 24.1 last season after hovering at 19 or 20 for his career, and that was very negative for his efficiency.
As a result, Young’s field goals attempted jumped from 12.6 to 16.2 per game, his effective field goal percentage dropped from 53.2 percent to 48.9 percent, and he took far more 3s and got to the line far less than we’d seen to that point in his career.
With the Timberwolves, it has to be assumed that Young will play a more similar role to his role with the 2010-11 or 2011-12 76ers, where he was more of a complimentary piece. He will definitely have more around him this season than he has since the Sixers dealt Iguodala, and that hopefully would mean a reverse of Young’s last two years, where he’s become less efficient and effective in a larger role.
However, last season’s struggle also needs to be considered, as it’s also a possibility that Young stays that less effective player, even at a reduced role.
That’s what makes Young so difficult to evaluate. If he had played on a normal, functioning team last season, he likely would have put up similar efficiency numbers, and this wouldn’t be an issue.
However, last season puts a small bit of doubt in the mind that Young is a lock to be of benefit for the Timberwolves. He’ll likely still be decent, at the least; it’s not like he transformed into Michael Beasley last year.
However, if Minnesota is going to call on him to play a huge role this season, it’s not safe to say that he’s going to be effective enough to be a difference maker for Minnesota, which is what many expect him to be.
In all likelihood, Young will be able to bounce back and have a strong season for Minnesota. Playing with Ricky Rubio will be huge for him, as he will be able to put his slashing ability to use with one of the best pocket passers in the game.
The combination of Young and Corey Brewer on fast breaks is also terrifying, frankly, and he’ll fill a huge need with his finishing ability in what was a team-wide problem last year. Hopefully the coaching staff reigns him in on his 3 attempts, and he will provide veteran leadership, particularly for Bennett, a very similar player.
The worries of inconsistency might be for naught. However, because last season is always freshest in our minds, it’s very hard to just automatically assume Young’s going to be an asset for the Timberwolves.