Young Returns Amid Resurgence

Last night Thaddeus Young returned to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team he played for in 48 games this year. The game was the second leg of Young’s return tour. He faced the team that drafted him, the Philadelphia 76ers, on Saturday in a 94-87 winning effort.

Both games indicated Young’s promising value, with the Brooklyn Nets reaping the rewards of consecutive wins against two teams competing in a battle of tanking. He scored 21 points in the city of brotherly love by way of 60% shooting from the field. Underlined in his most recent performances is a theme of Young’s short time with the Nets – 13 games to be exact – efficiency, both in field goal percentage and production in minutes played.

Despite transitioning to a new team in the middle of a furious NBA season, a difficult task for any player, his coach credits his effectiveness to his instinctive playing style. “Though he doesn’t know all the calls and the schemes, basketball is basketball,” Lionel Hollins said.

Since traded, Young has shot over 52% from the field, near his career high and if discounting two poor performances against the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns he is near 56%. Earlier in his career Young relied on power and athleticism to score, reluctant to shoot the long ball.

He hasn’t transformed into Kyle Korver, nor is he bombing it from the Brooklyn Bridge, but he’s shooting almost 55% from beyond the arc – a career high – surprising fans and likely himself. While it’s too small a sample size to label him as a long range shooter of any variety Young has now made a three in the 11 consecutive games, when he has attempted a shot.

Improved shooting from deep and the field alike has not meant greater production than his time in Minnesota – it’s actually been slightly worse.

Earlier in the year he averaged 14.3 points per game, 2.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds. His points per game and assist stats have dropped, but not to an alarming rate, especially when factoring his reduced playing time. In only 26 minutes per game, Young provides 14.1 points, just over one assist and 4.9 rebounds, compared to 33 minutes in Minnesota, where he was one of the primary options on offense.

Mostly coming off the bench, he has started just five games (which will presumably change because of his solid production) as opposed to his time with the Timberwolves where he started all the games he played.

Shooting aside, Young allows the Nets to play small with either Lopez or Plumlee manning the center position, Young occupying the power forward space – taking advantage of his agility – Joe Johnson boosted to small forward, along with Markel Brown and Deron Williams controlling the backcourt.

Young’s play doesn’t appear to be diminishing, nor will it vanish in the offseason. General Manager Billy King stated decisively what he wants regarding Young and his future with the Nets. “I know he can opt out but we’re going to do our best to try to keep him here,” King said. Although Young has failed to be definitive as to whether or not he will pick up his player option next year he admitted there is mutual admiration between both him and the Nets and that he would like to remain a Net, at least for next year.

Should Young choose to stay with in Brooklyn next year it will cost the Nets $10 million. It would also prepare him for free agency in 2016, when the salary cap will explode.

Last night the Nets won 122-106 on the road. Young scored 19 points, and shot 8-17, but didn’t attempt a three as he done more often in previous games. “I’m not going to stand on the outside and put up shot after shot. I’m going to try to impose my will in the paint,” he said.

Young and the Nets will face LeBron James and the Eastern conference’s second seed, the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

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