Why the Spurs Need to Trade Thaddeus Young Right Now

The San Antonio Spurs acquired Thaddeus Young in the offseason in the trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to the Chicago Bulls. The primary reason Young landed in San Antonio was that his $14.2 million expiring contract was needed to match salaries in the trade. 

Unlike most throw-ins, Young was viewed as being a positive asset for the Spurs. Last season, the 33-year-old averaged 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 55.9% from the field. He was legitimately one of the best backup big men in the NBA last season.

While Young’s name has been in trade rumors since the first day he landed in San Antonio via the DeRozan trade, it’s time for the Spurs to accelerate those talks and pull the trigger on a deal.

Thaddeus Young Isn’t a Good Fit on the Spurs

As good as Young was for the Bulls last season, his fit in San Antonio is awkward. He doesn’t shoot three-pointers well enough to be a fit in the starting lineup. If he were to replace Doug McDermott in the starting five, the spacing would be horrendous.

Off the bench, the fit isn’t much better. Last season, Young played a lot of time at center when he was used with Chicago’s second unit. However, the Spurs would primarily need him to play power forward due to the presence of backup centers in Drew Eubanks, Jock Landale and, at some point after Christmas, Zach Collins.

At power forward, Young’s lack of mobility on defense becomes a problem in today’s positionless league. Pairing him with Eubanks, specifically, would be difficult because neither player is comfortable defending quick players out on the perimeter.

On the offensive end, Young is best when he’s heavily involved in the sets. His best skill last year was his passing — and we didn’t see the Spurs use him as a facilitator at all in the preseason. With bench scorers like Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker IV, it’s unlikely that things would change once the regular season tips off.

Thaddeus Young’s Value Will Decrease if the Spurs Hold Onto Him

Right now, Young unquestionably has positive value. Multiple contending teams would be thrilled to add him to their bench. That said, if the Spurs hold onto him, his value is going to plummet.

Since he’s an unnatural fit, it’s likely that Young will be on the fringe of the rotation. Even when he does play, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be nearly as productive as he was last season — simply based on how the Spurs will use him. Factor in the inevitable age-related decline and there’s no doubt that his value is higher right now than it’ll be at any point the rest of the season.

I believe that the best move the Spurs can make is to trade Young before the start of the regular season. What can the Spurs get for him in a trade? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Sell him to the highest bidder. If they can get a first rounder for him, that’d be outstanding. A halfway interesting player and a second rounder? If that’s the best the Spurs can get, then that’s fine.

If the Spurs hold onto Young, the endgame is one Spurs fans have witnessed too often in recent years: He’d be held to the trade deadline, San Antonio would deem no trades to be worth the effort and then Young would have his contract bought out so that he can join a contender.

Other Consideration When Trading Thaddeus Young

Trading Young now also helps ensure that second year swingman Devin Vassell remains in the rotation. If the coaching staff tries to force Young into the mix, Vassell would be the player most likely to be the odd man out. 

The Spurs have also invested time and money into the backup center position. Eubanks, Landale and eventually Collins will battle for a limited amount of big man minutes behind starter Jakob Poeltl. If Young is played at backup center, those three players would see their development stagnate.

The Spurs received a first round pick and two second round picks in the trade for DeRozan, which was a strong haul considering the circumstances. The Spurs can add to that win by trading Young now before his value slips.