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Deconstructing Thad

Thad Young has been a disappointment through 13 games. The Princeton offense, or the version the Sixers have been running to be fair, has not been kind to Thad or his stat line. After the jump, we'll take a look a closer look at his numbers and try to figure out what about the PO is making offense harder for the kid.

Before we jump into Thad, here's a quick look at the team's advanced stats through 13 games.
We've talked about the atrocious rebounding against Memphis enough. The impressive thing here is they came back and beat the Cavs on the boards, percentage-wise. Probably not a coincidence they were in that game with a chance to win, huh?

Back to Thad. My theory heading into the research for this post was that moving Thad to the three, and further away from the hoop, led to a heavier reliance on jumpers. Couple that with the problems he's having on his J, which seem to stem from a breakdown in his form, or several different breakdowns to be more accurate. I'm not sure the numbers back the theory up, though. Check out his shot chart for last season and this year.



I added up the numbers basically dividing the chart into two segments. Inside an outside. The area right at the hoop, and the three areas touching that spot being inside. Everything else being outside. For the most part, jumpers vs. non-jumpers. Here are the results:

I highlighted the relevant data for the argument. The portion of my theory that focused on his jumper not falling holds water, but that was obvious. He's dropped nearly 15% off his field goal percentage on jumpers.

The other part of my theory was dead wrong, however. Even though he's moved to the three (for the record, I have him playing 154 minutes, 3 seconds at the four. 310 minutes, 47 seconds at the three so far this season), he's actually upped the percentage of his shots that come inside from 68.37% last season to 71.5% this year. This good news, it means Thad realizes his shortcomings and he's working to get the ball to the hoop. The problem is, I'm not sure his aggression is really paying dividends.

He's definitely getting to the line more (3.6 attempts/36 minutes this season, 2.6 attempts/36 minutes last season), but he's also turning the ball over at an alarming rate. His TOV rate is up over 50% from each of his first two seasons, from 10.2 to 15.6. I'll try to put those last two stats in perspective for you.

Thad's usage rate this season is 20.2%, so he uses (either by taking a shot or turning the ball over) roughly one out of five possessions. His usage rate last year was 20.5%. To simplify this, let's say the Sixers run 100 possessions with Thad on the floor. Here's the math:

  • Out of 100 possessions Thad uses 20.5. Out of those 20.5 possessions, he turns the ball over 2.091 times.
  • Out of 100 possessions Thad uses 20.2. Out of those 20.2 possessions, he turns the ball over 3.15 times.

Take the math a step further, he's averaging .6 more made free throws per 36 minutes. It takes the Sixers roughly 53 minutes to run 100 possessions, so his increase in FT rate is gaining the team approximately .88 points per 100 possessions.

I'll spare you some more math, and just tell you that Thad's increased turnovers aren't nearly offset by the increase in trips to the line. In fact, it's costing the team points. Obviously, I'm jumping to a couple of conclusions here that I can't really back up with any stats, namely that the increase in both turnovers and free throw attempts are a direct result of Thad trying to get to the hole more often. I think they're both safe assumptions, though.

Let's tie this all into what we've seen and heard so far this season. Thad just isn't comfortable out there. He doesn't have a firm grasp of the offense and two things happen when you don't know what you're supposed to do. (1) You fall back on what you know works. In this case, getting inside and spinning/dipping around defenders for a hoop. (2) You make mistakes.

This is an age-old argument I've had with my wife since the first time we were in a car together. She says aggressive drivers cause the most traffic accidents. She's wrong, it's indecisive drivers who cause accidents more often than not. If you can't make up your mind, or you're questioning your move as you make it, you're going to hesitate. Your focus is going to be split, and you're more likely to clip someone's fender as you pull into traffic. In Thad's case, if you don't know if you should shoot, pass or dribble, if it isn't second-nature to you what you should do in that situation and you don't know even before you start to make your move, the odds of shuffling your feet before you make your move are increased. It looks to me like this indecision is affecting the mechanics of his jumper, his shot selection, his base when he starts driving, even his handle. In short, it's turning his one strength, efficient offense, into a non-factor for the Sixers when they desperately need him.

The good news? As time passes, he has to gain some comfort. Familiarity hopefully won't breed contempt and he'll start having more conviction in the decisions he's making. The turnovers will drop, hopefully without the FT attempts dipping as well, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that last part. The jumpers should start falling more frequently. Here's the rub, though. The Sixers played a very instinctual style on offense for the first two seasons of Thad's career. There were a lot of one-on-ones and he got the vast majority of his offense either in the open floor, or off plays created by Miller and Iguodala (open shots, backdoor cuts, offensive rebounds, etc.) There's no guarantee that the level of familiarity Thad will eventually acquire with this offense will allow him to be as efficient in it as he was in the "systems" Cheeks and DiLeo ran.

Of course, there's another elephant in the room as well. At what point does Eddie Jordan hit the panic button and move Thad back to the four permanently? My guess is that the clock is ticking and Thad is going to have to get more familiar with this offense before Speights gets back. I can't tell you how big of a mistake I think it would be for Thad and Iguodala to be shifted back to PF/SF, respectively.

Thoughts in the comments, and don't forget the SixersBeat radio show will be premiering tonight at 8pm.
by Brian on Nov 23 2009
Tags: Advanced Stats | Basketball | Sixers | Thaddeus Young |