Why Thaddeus Young is the ideal pickup for the Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 30 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 30 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

As rumors begin to pick up and fans begin to start dreaming of what players their team can acquire as we approach the NBA trade deadline on February 10th, the Milwaukee Bucks are in search of a piece (or two) that can solidify their championship hopes.

They have a couple of needs, most notably a reserve big man, potentially a backup point guard, and a big wing similar to the mold of P.J. Tucker (or Semi Ojeleye as they’d hoped in the offseason).

The latter is the one that is more pressing in my opinion and in our recent roundtable ahead of the trade deadline, I suggested that San Antonio Spurs veteran Thaddeus Young would be my ideal pickup for the Bucks to fill that need.

I’m not the only one who thinks so! Eric Nehm of The Athletic (subscription required) recently put out a Bucks trade deadline primer and he listed Young as a potential addition on the buyout market.

He’s no stranger to the Central division, playing over 360 games between his time with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. He was also a teammate of Jrue Holiday when they were both early in their career with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The benefits of adding Thaddeus Young to the Milwaukee Bucks

At first glance, the 33-year-old is having by far his worst season with the San Antonio Spurs after coming over from the Bulls in an offseason trade involving DeMar DeRozan. He’s averaging 5.8 points (career-low) on 55.7 percent true shooting, 3.4 rebounds (career-low), and 2.3 assists per game.

However, he has only played in 25 of their 48 games and is playing around 14 minutes per game. The Spurs have transitioned to somewhat of a youth movement and that doesn’t involve the 15-year veteran.

Is there a concern that Young has lost a step or two? Perhaps, but he showed he had plenty of juice left with the Bulls last season, averaging around 12 points on nearly 58 percent true shooting, six rebounds, and four assists in around 24 minutes per game.

It would be unwise to think that Young would be able to play to that level if he were to join the Bucks since he’d remain in a reserve role, but his presence would be a welcome addition to their roster.

At 6’8″ and 235 pounds, Young would slide perfectly into the big wing role that Tucker occupied during the Bucks’ championship run that helped unlock the lineups that featured Giannis Antetokounmpo at center and allowed the Bucks to switch more aggressively.

Young has played 89 percent of his minutes in his career at power forward, so there’s an immediate fit there. He also has the mobility to guard quicker wings while being strong enough to guard up and defend centers as a small-ball five.

The big concern around Young is that he isn’t much of a shooter and that will negatively affect their spacing around Antetokounmpo. He’s a career 33 percent shooter from 3-point range on around one and a half attempts per game.

However, in a four-season span from 2016-17 to 2019-20, Young shot nearly 35 percent on over two attempts per game. It’s not elite by any means, but that’s a serviceable number. Opponents in the playoffs still won’t guard him from deep though, especially since he’s shot 12-of-48 (25 percent) from 3 in his last 92 games. That being said, Tucker shot 32.2 percent from 3 on 2.6 attempts, so they can certainly figure things out.

An intriguing skill set that he does bring is his passing. Over his last four seasons, he has posted a 16.6 assist rate and averaged four assists per 36 minutes. While he may not be able to space the floor effectively, he can be a nice playmaker that can set things up for Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and some of the role players to get them better looks.

It also fills the need for a backup big as well seeing as he’s played over 20 percent of his minutes at center in the last three seasons and has been used almost exclusively there with the Spurs. Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required), Young played 57 percent of his minutes at center with the Bulls last season and they had a plus-6.3 net rating in those minutes.

It would be a lot of fun to see how head coach Mike Budenholzer would use him and his positional versatility should they end up being able to acquire him. It will be tricky though as they won’t be able to trade for him (due to his salary) so they’ll have to rely on being able to convince him to join as a free agent should he be bought out.

Next. 3 reasons why the Milwaukee Bucks should pursue a Justin Holiday trade. dark

Young will be an attractive option for many teams if he’s bought out but there’s a clear, built-in role for the veteran on the defending champs and that has to be desirable for someone who has never played more than 13 games in a single playoff run.