How Thaddeus Young is thriving in role with Raptors

On this edition of Spotlight, Samson Folk shines a light on Thaddeus Young, who is helping the Raptors stay afloat while they deal with numerous injuries.

Video Transcript

- Here's Thad Young doing it once again. See, that's his spot right there.

- Old man?

- That's-- you said that.

SAMSON FOLK: There is, of course, no substitute for Pascal Siakam on the Raptors. However, what they have done to stay afloat has flattened out a lot of their offensive responsibilities and looked for creation elsewhere. Enter Thagic Johnson.

I'm Samson Folk. This is "Spotlight." And let's dive into how Thaddeus Young is having his best stretch as a Raptor.

With the Raptors losing quite a bit of their shot creation and their ability to get into the middle of the defenses to disrupt them, to rotate them, what they've had to do is instead use the pass to penetrate certain areas of the floor. This requires better reads from triggermen and much more conviction from cutters. And that's why we've seen guys like Thaddeus Young and Juancho Hernangomez receive a sharp uptick in minutes because they both play really well in those team-oriented concepts.

Let's take a look at this play, Iverson loop. Look how slick a pass this is from Thad as he leads OG to his spot. He doesn't face up or give any tell to Mathurin that he should drop back. He acts nonchalant so the Pacers guard this action with less intention. And bang, there's the pass, there's a layup. This is an easy way to make the Raptors more dangerous in early and late offense. Whether it's delay, split, or pistol action, if there's an advantage to be gained, then Thad is the man to find it.

Since his role changed in Chicago and the birth of the nickname Thagic Johnson, he has been a floor surveying, rapid processing machine in a bunch of different facets of offense. And keep in mind, the Raptors have a lot of trouble putting pressure on the rim in the half-court, and Thad's playmaking is the type that creates the looks at the rim. It's huge. And the mass appeal of all of this is that you get all these positives without getting a ball stopper. The decisions are made quick and the ball is moved on or the defense receives pressure. This can be done in the form of a handoff or a keeper play.

These are an absolute staple of every single offense across the NBA. But Young's solid handle and elite playmaking at his size and position, not to mention his screening craft, add a couple elements for defenses to account for. In some cases, the 34-year-old rumbles into the paint for finishes or clears out opportunities for others. Once again, the Raptors are starved for half-court offense and their grizzled veteran has assumed form.

Let's take a look at these staggered sets where his screening and movement is exactly what allows these actions to pop off. One time, as the top screener who works off of OG coming downhill, one time as the bottom screener who recognizes the Hawks loading up on the action and slips back door. Great reads to create easy baskets. We see him short rolling, getting on the offensive glass, cutting extremely well, and underpinning all of his success is that magnificent touch.

Teams love to concede the mid-range shots. They're inefficient. They're a dime a dozen. If you can inform a team's shot profile that way, you do it. But Thad is shooting 70% between 4 and 14 feet. All those cuts, all those little keeper plays, they are made all the better by him delivering real payload at the end of it.

Will he shoot 70% all season? Probably not. That's unlikely. But over his career, he's always hovering around 50%. And I mean, he's been so good that they're giving him pinch post possessions, like the Raptors do with Siakam and the Mavericks do with Luka Doncic.

This is year 16 for Thad. I can't help but Marvel at him every night that he steps out in this role. He's slinging passes in transition. He's the ultimate wheel greaser in the half-court. He's making great reads on defense and getting steals.

He has a very powerful presence on the Raptors right now. And he's a life raft for many of these minutes and the scheme they have to lean into. He has been a star in his role. For the Raptors to survive, Thad has needed to thrive. The Thagic is back, baby.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of "Spotlight." I'm, once again, Samson Folk. And if you want to keep up with me, keep tuning in to all of these episodes that I do. And you can catch me over at Thanks for tuning in. I'll see you.