The Phoenix Suns look destined to battle with the Golden State Warriors for NBA supremacy all season long. Both teams could improve their rosters ahead of the February trade deadline. The Suns already have their eyes set on a veteran forward who could be the missing ingredient to the championship recipe.
San Antonio Spurs forward Thaddeus Young began the season hopeful that his team could make the playoffs. Those dreams have likely dissipated. Although the Spurs are currently on the fringes of the final play-in spot, they seem like a team destined to sell come February.
At the very least, San Antonio should reposition by trading away potentially valuable veterans like Young. The Suns figure to take a hard look at acquiring Young, whose skill set perfectly suits Phoenix’s roster.
The Suns are interested in trading for Thaddeus Young
The Suns already have the championship foundation. It’s the fringe additions that could determine whether they have enough to win a championship in June.
One such addition currently plays in San Antonio. Bleacher Report‘s Jake Fischer reported the Suns are believed to have “strong interest” in acquiring Thaddeus Young, with the Spurs reportedly showing interest in Phoenix big man Jalen Smith.
San Antonio’s apparent intrigue in Smith presents the Suns with an opportunity. Phoenix declined Smith’s $4.7 million third-year option this offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and all but putting a hard stop on his future in the desert.
However, the Spurs’ interest could allow the Suns to include Smith in a package for Young, rather than watching him walk in free agency without recouping anything. Maybe sending him and future draft capital to San Antonio is enough to get a deal done.
Such a move could translate to more wins for Phoenix, especially because of Young’s potential fit alongside Deandre Ayton.
Young would plug some of the holes on the Suns roster
Seeing as Thaddeus Young cannot shoot the ball from the perimeter, one might presume making a trade that pairs him with another paint-bound big like Ayton — who has shown the Suns why he deserved a max extension — clogs up the spacing. But that’s not necessarily true.
Although Young rarely takes 3-pointers, he still has perimeter value as a guy who can handle the ball and play a massive part in pick-and-roll. Last season with the Chicago Bulls, Young excelled at setting rub screens on fake dribble-handoffs, springing cutters to the rim for easy buckets. According to NBA.com, he also ranks among the leaders in screen assists.
A strong screener like Young would allow Chris Paul and Devin Booker to get to their spots in the midrange, with the Suns dominating in that capacity over the last two seasons. However, the winner of the 2020-21 Hustle Award is far more than just a screener.
Young can handle the rock in transition and attracts attention by barreling into the paint. He gets to loose balls and takes charges. Most importantly, he hounds the offensive glass.
The 33-year-old averaged 2.5 offensive rebounds with the Bulls last season and is racking up a career-high 3.8 offensive boards per 36 minutes for the Spurs in the 2021-22 campaign. Why is that so important? Well, because the Suns rank 24th in offensive rebounding.
Young might not be the sexiest addition. But he can give the Suns precisely what they’re looking for on the court. Isn’t that what the trade deadline is all about?
Added size is crucial for Phoenix
The Suns allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to get back into (and eventually win) last year’s NBA Finals because the Bucks absolutely swarmed Phoenix on the boards.
The Suns got outrebounded 278-234 for the series, including 79-42 on the offensive glass. Milwaukee overwhelmed Phoenix with its size and consistently got extra opportunities to score.
General manager James Jones needs to rectify past errors and give his own team more second-chance points. He can do so by trading for Thaddeus Young, a veteran who provides toughness and has the skills needed to put the Suns over the top.
Phoenix has one of the sport’s best leaders in CP3. They have a top scorer in Booker, an elite defensive stopper in Mikal Bridges, and a sturdy two-way big in Ayton. Young might just be the final piece to the puzzle.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.