Three weeks ago, I chronicled the disturbing trend of Thad Young's decreased contributions in the second half of games. Little did I know that a week later, he'd disappear completely. He still on the floor, sometimes too much, but he's been a complete drain on the team. After the jump, a look at how bad he's been, and maybe why.
It's pretty clear that Thad hasn't been himself over the past nine games, in fact, Thad's offensive production has been downright pitiful. Check out these splits. All stats are per 36 minutes:
Two things about this stretch really bother me. The first is the dramatic uptick in Thad's number of shots. He never, ever struck me as a gunner in the past, and the fact that he's trying to shoot his way out of this slump by taking more shots than usual is disconcerting. The second part is what he's doing with the ball when he isn't shooting. He's averaging 2.8 turnovers/36 minutes and his assist numbers are actually down from the first 29 games.
Let's take a step back and look at his effect on the team over the past 9 games. The Sixers, as a team, have had roughly 817 possessions on offense. Thad has been on the floor for roughly 56.7% of the team's total minutes over the stretch, so let's estimate that he's been on the floor for 463 possessions. Of those 463 possessions, he's turned the ball over 19 times, taken 103 shots, missed 87 of them, gone to the line 28 times, hit 19 of them. So he's used roughly 136 possessions (29.4%), and he's scored exactly 87 points with those possessions. Even if you add in his assists at two-points per possession, and give him credit for 2 points per offensive rebound (which is being way too generous), we're still talking about only 145 points in 165 possessions, or an offensive efficiency rating of 87.88.
Simply put, that's pitiful. That's worse than Willie Green at his absolute worst, bad.
The question then becomes, why? My first thought was that Allen Iverson's mere presence has thrown Thad out of whack. Iverson works really well with the bigs, he gets his own shot, but I had concerns about how Thad would get his looks if Iverson was dominating that ball. When I look at these numbers, though, I don't think that's it at all. It's not that Thad isn't getting his touches, in fact, he's getting more touches. The problem is that Thad simply isn't converting them.
My next thought was that he was settling for too many jumpers, but upon closer inspection, that's not the case either. In the first 29 games, 41.6% of his shots were at the rim, 15% from within 10 feet and 43.4% from outside of 10 feet. Over the past 9 games, 52.4% of his attempts have been at the rim, 15.5% inside of 10 feet and only 32.1% outside of 10 feet. A whopping 70% of his total made shots have come at the rim.
So he's been more aggressive, actively trying to get to the rim for his shot attempts, but he just cannot seem to convert them. I can think of a couple possible explanations, the first being the position change. He's spent the vast majority of his minutes at the four over the past nine games (in fact, he's only spent 19 of 245 minutes played at the three), meaning he's had bigger players on him. This isn't really anything new for Thad, he's played the vast majority of his minutes at the four over the past two seasons, but maybe the book is out on him down low. It's not difficult to figure out Thad shies away from contact in close, instead preferring to alter his shot to get it off clean. It's also no secret that he prefers to use spin moves to get to his left hand. If I'm writing a book on Thad, I'm telling my guys to crowd him, expect the spin, and always, always go for the block. Odds are, Thad won't go for the contact and draw the foul, but he'll drastically alter the shot, making it a much lower percentage attempt.
One quick fix would be to play Thad some minutes at the three and get him the ball in the post where he can shoot over his man, most of the time.
If you need a reason for optimism, Tom Moore told us last night on SixersBeat that Thad's personal shooting coach, Bruce Kreutzer from the Mark Price Basketball Academy, was in town on Tuesday working with Thad. Specifically, he was working on getting Thad onto the balls of his feet when he shoots his jumper, to get more lift on the shot and get it over the front of the rim.
I'm glad Thad's taking matters into his own hands and trying to get his shot straightened out. The kid seems like a hard worker, and I'm sure he's going to get through this rough patch, I just want to see a little more maturity from him while he's mired in it. Having a bad shooting stretch is a fact of life for young players, but compounding the problem by taking way too many shots isn't really acceptable, from Thad or from the coaching staff. If you want to break him out of it, create some favorable mismatches and get him easy looks early in the game.