Have you looked at the 76ers stats recently? Thaddeus Young is leading the team after 10 games with 16.3 points a night. To say that's a surprise is an understatement, especially after the Sixers invested nearly $160 million in Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala this summer.
To be fair, Brand isn't far behind with 15.5 points, and he's averaging a double-double with 10.3 boards, to boot. But Iguodala? He's been the team's fourth-leading scorer, chipping in a mere 12.4 points. Sure, some of the blame lies with a career-low (and likely flukish) 37.8% shooting percentage, but he's also fourth on the team in field-goals attempted, proof of how far he's slipped in the team's plans. I'm not worried, though; he's the team's leader and a savvy veteran -- he'll figure things out eventually.
But let's get back to Young, who's essentially doubled his rookie scoring average (8.3 points). Is this just a hot start that will eventually fade? Maybe to a degree, but I'm convinced the progress is for real. He spent much of last year playing out of position at the four, but since moving back to small forward his versatility, especially on the perimeter, is starting to shine.
Young took 19 three-point attempts in 74 games last year, hitting just 31.4% of the time. In 10 games this year, though, he's already attempted 33, hitting at a 39.4% clip. You don't convert at that percentage without increased confidence, and you don't take that many per game without the trust of your coaching staff.
And you know what the best part is? When he's not shooting from long-distance, he's camped out near the basket, shooting 55.7% on "two-point" attempts, making him a remarkably efficient scorer. As Mo Cheeks told Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News:
"Thad just does what he's capable of doing," Cheeks said. "He doesn't try and do too much. We don't run any plays for him. He kind of offensive rebounds, spots up, [is consistent at] coming down on the break. And he's been making shots. He's not doing anything I don't think he did the latter part of the second half [of last season]. He's just doing it a little bit better, and getting more opportunities."
But while Cheeks may downplay Young's development, there's no denying that he's adding versatility to the offense. Last year, the knock on the team was that it was long on athletes and short on shooters, and Young's ability to stretch the defense can only make life easier for Brand in the low-post and Iguodala driving the ball.
The Sixers are 5-5 even without Brand and Iggy playing all the way up to their ability, and if Young keeps it up, this team should be poised to take off once the franchise cornerstones start earning their salaries.