"This is a move we think moves our program forward," 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie said on a conference call on Tuesday regarding the trade that sent Thaddeus Young to Minnesota, netting the Sixers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, guard Alexey Shved and a top-10-protected first-round pick.
“Thad Young has been here seven years for the Sixers, and he has laid it on the line for us, night after night,” Hinkie said in a calm, deliberate manner. “He continually brought it every day. I’m aware of the kind of ups and downs he’s been through during his Sixers career, and I’m also aware of the positive attitude he brought every day.”
That positive attitude is what Young has become known for throughout the Philadelphia community, which has become his home over the past seven years. Young came to the 76ers as a fresh-faced 19-year old with only a year of college at Georgia Tech under his belt. He left Philadelphia as a well-respected NBA veteran looked to for leadership.
“During all of my time here, he really was a day-to-day pro," Hinkie said of Young, "and that’s something that’s really, really appreciated.”
In his seven seasons with the Sixers, Young did everything the organization asked of him. He came off the bench, then he started. Then he was again resigned to a reserve role, then switched to a starter. He shot threes, then was told not to shoot threes, and then under head coach Brett Brown he incorporated them back into his game.
Young was under the rule of five different coaches during those seven seasons, and he went through a ton of team turnover. Outside of a surprise playoff run in 2012, Young didn’t experience much success, or stability as a Sixer.
There were no complaints though. No sideways statements to the media, no annual demand for better teammates or a trade out of town. Most importantly, there were no nights taken off.
In the face of what he called "his toughest season as a professional" last year, Young posted an impressive 17.9 points and six rebounds per game, while approaching each game like the Sixers were squarely in the playoff picture, rather than posted on the periphery. Never once did Young, who would almost certainly be a great fit as a multi-faceted forward on a balanced title team, complain about the caliber of players he was sharing a locker room with. Instead, he saw the season as an opportunity to lead some of the younger guys, most notably, Michael Carter-Williams.
“I don’t think you find people like Thad very much,” Hinkie said, providing perspective on the difficult decisio he faced in moving the longest-standing Sixer. “[Thad] is just the kind of person that I’m really drawn to. He is straight down the middle. He is professional, he loves his wife, he’s close to his kids, he surrounds himself with great people. He just really does a lot of things as a man, and as a person, that I really respect.”
Hinkie’s respect doesn’t earn you a staying spot on the Sixers, however.
In reality, the move was a long-time coming, and it is equally beneficial for Young, who, in his prime, is no longer stuck on a struggling Sixers squad in full rebuilding mode. Plus, basketball remains a business, and as much as Hinkie liked Young on and off the court, if he didn’t make a move he ran the risk of Young walking in free agency next summer and getting nothing for him; a possibility that seemed extremely likely.
So sensibly, the Sixers made a move. In addition to Shved and Mbah a Moute, the Sixers secured a protected first-round pick for 2015, which Hinkie is pleased with.
“You don’t see first-rounders trading hands very often these days," the general manager said.
Assets aside, it will be difficult to replace the character of the guy who was traded to the Timberwolves, and it will be equally as difficult to duplicate his attitude, both on and off the court.
“Those things matter,” Hinkie said in reference to the character qualities he respects in his former forward, before revealing the decision to move Young wasn’t easy for him either.
“That’s why these decisions, while necessary, are still challenging.”