The Toronto Raptors traded a first-round pick (which later became Malaki Branham) in order to acquire veteran forward Thad Young from the San Antonio Spurs. Young not only fit in with Toronto’s positionless ethos, but he added veteran moxie to what was still a very young team.
Young’s Raptors tenure has been a roller coaster, as his roles and expectations have changed wildly. Young looked like a tremendous addition early in his Raptors career, as he played big minutes in the playoffs and fit Nick Nurse’s system like a glove on both ends.
Things took a turn for the worse last season, as Young started to show signs of aging. Young went from an occasional starter as a small-ball center to someone who was out of the rotation entirely. Bizarrely, the Raptors decided to bring him back on an $8 million salary rather than cut him loose.
The Raptors had to have brought him back with the expectation that he would play some role, however truly limited it may be. Will Young end up revitalizing his career, or will the Raptors have to watch as someone who could be playing on a contender waste away in Toronto?
Toronto Raptors 21 in 21: Is Thad Young going to play?
Stats: 4.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 54% FG, 17% 3PT
The Raptors saw Young fall behind Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher in the depth chart. Young’s finishing at the rim is still excellent, but the improvements he made as a 3-point shooter when he came to Toronto seem to have evaporated. Even in blowouts, Young rarely took his warmups off late in the year.
Young’s limited playing time often came as a connector rather than a scorer, as he can still get rebounds, defend well, and find the open man. Will that be valuable enough to guarantee him playing time this season?
Best Case Scenario for Thad Young in 2023
Young ends up becoming the 11th man in the rotation, filling in when someone is injured. While his veteran leadership may not have been well received last season, Rajakovic could put him in a position to have his advice be more well-received after ripping the Nurse Band-Aid off.
Worst Case Scenario for Thad Young in 2023
Young ends up playing much the same role he had last year. On the court, his impact is minimal, as the three-headed hydra of declining physical skill, depth at the positions he can play, and an organizational desire to play young guys over veterans could all make it tough for him to get minutes.
Young’s role as an elder statesman on this team could be very pivotal, but there is a fine line between being a leader who keeps the young guys on the straight and narrow and an aging presence whose sayings fall on deaf ears. Being an $8 million assistant coach isn’t an ideal fate, either.