As Nets Get Younger, It’s Time To Turn to Young


May 1, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Thaddeus Young (30) drives against Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap (4) and Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague (0) during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets’ offseason focus has been adding youth with little risk and high potential to a roster that has skewed heavily towards veterans over the past few years. Nine of the projected 15 players to make the roster are 26 or younger, and there will certainly be some growing pains and inconsistency as they do their best to acclimate themselves to Coach Lionel Hollins’ system.

Although veterans Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack will be on the roster to help mentor the rookies, Johnson is in the twilight of his career, and Jack can’t be relied upon to consistently lead by example on the court.  As a result, one of Brooklyn’s young veterans will need to take the reigns and lead by example.  Although Brook Lopez will certainly be the focal point of the Nets’ offensive scheme, the Nets will need someone to step up and demand the ball when Lopez is having an off night or being double-teamed.

After receiving a 4-year, $54 million contract in the offseason, Thaddeus Young will need to become that option. Only 27, Young has already been in the league for eight years and proved in Philadelphia that he could be efficient even when the defense is focused on him.

Last year, Young spent the first half of the season Minnesota and saw his numbers rise when he was traded to Brooklyn.  His field goal percentage increased to 49.5 percent, his three-point percentage increase to 38 percent, and his rebounds increase to 5.9 per game.  He did, however, only average 13.8 points while playing 29.6 minutes per game, his lowest minutes per game average since 2011.

With Johnson’s minutes likely to decline and the Nets having few scoring options on offense on their second unit, Young should see a minutes increase and more offensive looks as Coach Hollins looks to mix and match lineups when Lopez and Johnson are on the bench.  Because of that, Young should have the opportunity to capitalize and see a significant boost in production.  Ideally for Brooklyn, Young will see a return to the 17.9 points per game average he posted only 2 seasons ago, while hopefully maintaining the 52.4 effective field goal percentage he’s posted as a Net.  That season he also averaged 2.1 steals and shot 71.2 percent from the line in comparison to the 1.4 steals per game and 60.6 percent free-throw shooting he’s put up in Brooklyn.

With more minutes, more touches, and more opportunities, Young could become the unsung hero for the Nets next season. If he accepts his role as a leader and runs with it, the contract he signed in the offseason will look like a bargain a year from now.

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