It is perhaps an irrational affinity, but I have long considered Thaddeus Young the second best player on the Indiana Pacers. His rare combination of skills, impact, and IQ make him a player whose contributions are impossible to replicate.
Young’s 1.36 PIPM from last season put him right around guys like DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, and Blake Griffin, all-stars who are largely considered to be far better than Thaddeus Young. But Young’s talent grades don’t show a huge discrepancy between Young and Griffin, and Young grades better in some few key areas for forwards.
Simply put, Thad Young is very good.
It all starts with the little things for Young. He finished the 2017-18 season high up in the deflections rankings (these stats have been removed from NBA.com but I promise you he was top 10), and he is currently averaging 2.8 per game, good for top-20 in the league. He’s also top-20 in charges drawn per game, and this fact combined with deflections shows that Young focuses on the less glamorous activities on the defensive end of the floor:
Going beyond the little things, Thad is talented in many areas that are important to contribute to winning basketball. For just 6’8, Young is an astute offensive rebounder, grading out as an “A-” in this area. But offensive rebounds for the sake of offensive rebounds aren’t all that important. It’s what you (or your team) does with those extra possessions that matter. Thankfully, Thad grades out as an A- finisher as well. He can get the rebound and immediately put the shot back up, and that sequence of events is often a simple way to get 2 points:
Thaddeus Young grades well as a post player, too, which is key for a limited offensive player. Young mucks up the Pacers offensive spacing, but he makes up for a lot of it but being able to finish well in the post. He’s shooting 66.7 percent from 0-3 feet, a best for him in a half-decade, and he was solid as a post player last year, he graded out as a B+ player in this talent area.
Typically, outside of offensive rebounds, Thad’s post buckets come from being one of the NBA’s best at “duck-ins”. When opponents lean away to help stop the ball somewhere else, Young will turn and dive to the rim and create an easy scoring opportunity for the team:
You can say whatever you want about Thad’s lack of perimeter shooting, he graded as a “C-” outside shooter last season, but he finds a way to be effective on offense without the outside shot. Being in the right place at the right time around the basket is a huge part of that.
But Thaddeus Young makes his living not on offense, but by being an incredible defender. Thad graded out as an “A-” perimeter defender and a “C+” interior defender last season. He can defend anyone, anywhere, but his hallmark is that outstanding perimeter defense.
He can stay with just about anyone, and combined with his basketball IQ and willingness to do anything on defense, Thad manifests his impact on that end of the floor. His 1.3 DPIPM this season puts him near the top of the defensive impact list, and you can see it watching literally any Pacers defensive possession:
Thad just does the stuff that nobody else wants to do. He holds everything together – that’s why he is commonly called the glue guy. There’s a reason his on/off net rating is +4.5, more positive plays happen for the Indiana Pacers when Thaddeus is in the game. Put some, nay, a lot, of respect on his name.