Thaddeus Young is more than just the glue for the Indiana Pacers

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Thaddeus Young remains the glue of the Indiana Pacers, but the playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers vividly illustrated his value to the team.

Thaddeus Young, the glue guy of the Indiana Pacers.

It’s a clichéd description of a player, but the way the Pacers played without him on the court illustrated just how important he was to Indiana. Not just as a leader, not just for chemistry, but purely as a basketball player.

His 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds clearly don’t illustrate that effect by themselves. The team’s second-best on/off rating (2.6+ on, -1.2 off) doesn’t illustrate it enough, either. Victor Oladipo was the team’s MVP, but he wouldn’t get as much done without Thaddeus on the floor. There is a reason why the two shared the floor the most of any two Pacers, and there’s a reason they were one of the most successful duos.

This isn’t a rant against analytics or stats — almost all of them say Young is a top 10 forward — but it’s clear that Young is critical to Indiana’s success. And this isn’t an endorsement of the eye-test, either which is often used to look past a player’s obvious flaws.

Thaddeus Young simply makes the Indiana Pacers better.

As far as the ‘glue guy’ label, Thad is OK with it anyway.

"“I’m an intangibles guy. A guy who does a little bit of everything, and I’m always there when you need me,” Young said. “In the end, it doesn’t matter if I’m a glue guy or anything, as long as I’m out there playing with my guys.” McMillan called him the glue of the team before Game 2, a title Young accepts. “I just look for consistency. It’s not about the things that show up in the stats. When I was on the court, what did I do as far as going out there defensively? Was I able to hold my guy down? Or was I able to do certain things like the intangibles?” Young said. “The steals, the rebounds, chipping in on blocked shots. Offense is going to come. I’ve always been a guy who didn’t need plays ran for me, I just play off my teammates and try to keep things together on the court.”"

Labels are usually shortcuts in sports talk, but in this case, Thad fits it. Oladipo is the heart of the team, but so much of what the Pacers do is possible due to Young’s versatility.

Thanks to his ability to cover from the two to the five positions reliability (at least in spurts within games), Indiana doesn’t have to worry as much if their power forward gets switched on pick and rolls, and he can disrupt almost any play.

He had the third most deflections in the NBA last season, 11 more than Oladipo, who made the NBA’s All-Defensive first team.

Offensively speaking, he often finds the gaps on the court to get open shots. When defenses help off of him, he makes them pay. Indiana rarely runs plays to get him the ball, but he leaks out into open spaces and floats towards the rim to present himself as an easy target for his teammates.

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But while he can make shots, it isn’t as if he’s an offensive dynamo for Indiana.

His 11.8 points a game were the third-lowest average of his career, only behind his first season with the Pacers. He is efficient inside the arc at 53.9 percent from the floor, but his 3-point shooting sagged to 31.6 percent, below his career average.

Most of his shooting came from within 10 feet of the basket. While he has range beyond that, he wasn’t stretching the floor for Indiana. It’s one reason why Pritchard is suggesting that the Pacers need a power forward that’s “a real stretch-four” for next season.

Young’s flexibility as a defender outweighs his limitations on offense, but for Indiana, they have to decide if that’s enough for them as they build around Victor Oladipo.