Fred VanVleet has highest praise for Thad Young after terrific game

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 16: Thaddeus Young #21 and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 16: Thaddeus Young #21 and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The recent bombardment of injuries has made Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors reach down to the furthest depths of their bench in order to find replacements. Thad Young has been the most effective of the team’s replacement players. Considering how he started the season, this is a welcome change.

The first few games of the season were absolutely brutal for Young, as he had some poor offensive showings that earned him a trip to the Springfield Mystery Spot, never to be seen again outside of cameos at the end of games. Just a few weeks later, Young has become one of the team’s most vital cogs.

The same blend of toughness, veteran savvy, and playmaking skill that enticed Toronto to give him a multi-year contract. VanVleet is well aware of how much responsibility Young has been shouldering during this very trying period.

“He’s probably our most valuable player right now,” VanVleet said, per Adam Laskaris of Daily Hive. “He’s been holding down the fort, you know, as Christian [Koloko] is learning his way up and down [the NBA]. Thad had been giving us about 35 [minutes] a night now…The leadership experience, the tough play, the rebounds…he’s been key for us.”

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors have leaned on Thad Young.

Young has averaged 13.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game in his last four games. Before that hot stretch, Young had games where he was a +21 and +25 despite rarely scoring. Young’s value to this team far exceeds his already impressive box score stats.

Even though he stands just 6-8, Young has been a serviceable center for this team. With Christian Koloko going through some rookie growing pains (second half of the Hawks loss notwithstanding), getting Young some time at the five has made Toronto’s defense even more difficult to solve.

Toronto is rebounding and forcing turnovers at a ridiculous pace when he is on the floor.

The Raptors have built their entire team around forcing turnovers and crashing the offensive glass, and no one is doing that at a more efficient clip during the last four games than Young. There’s no way Thad should return to his old role of collecting dust on the bench.

The Raptors are still developing in the eyes of the NBA, meaning that they need that veteran connector that makes everything click. When Precious Achiuwa and Pascal Siakam return, Young needs to be forced into the lineup in some capacity in order to make sure this team keeps operating at peak efficiency.

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