Young Playing Best Basketball as a Bull


Right now, the Chicago Bulls are all about youth. The players that usually make up the starting five are all 25 or younger and have big seasons ahead of them.

25-year-old Zach LaVine is making an All-Star bid. 23-year-old Lauri Markkanen is playing for a contract. 20-year-old Coby White is growing in his second season.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Thaddeus Young is playing his best basketball as a Bull.


Although Young’s season averages of 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game don’t leap off the stat sheet, they’re all higher from a season ago when he joined the Bulls. Furthermore, however, Young is posting career highs in other areas this season. This is mainly due to his new role.

Last season, Jim Boylen had Young positioned outside of the three-point line. He wanted the former Georgia Tech man to shoot from deep. This led Young to attempt the second-most three-pointers per game (three and a half) in his entire career. Because Young was never comfortable with catching the ball so far away from the basket, he shot a career-low 44.8 percent from the field.

This season, Billy Donovan has Young playing in a more familiar role within the Bulls’ offense. Young is now stationed much closer to the basket, averaging the second-most elbow touches per game in the entire NBA, and has taken up the injured Wendell Carter Jr.’s role of catching the ball at the foul line and reacting to the defense.

Being closer to the basket has obviously helped Young’s shooting. A year after posting a career-low field-goal percentage, Young is shooting a career-high 58.7 percent from the floor.


Having a big stationed at the elbow that helps facilitate is an important part of Donovan’s offense. For example, when Donovan was the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, this was Steven Adams’ role. Because of this, Thaddeus has been racking up assists. His 4.3/game clip this season, which is another career high. But in Chicago’s three games against Boston, Portland and New York, he averaged 9.3 assists.

Young was nearly averaging a triple-double over those three games, adding 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists per contest:

  • 16 points, nine rebounds, nine assists vs. BOS
  • Eight points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists vs. POR
  • 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists vs. NYK

Young has become a fringe triple-double machine. He clearly improves Chicago’s offense, at either his natural power-forward position or at center in a smaller lineup. Chicago’s Offensive Rating is 13.2 points better when he’s on the court.

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An obvious question arises for a team focused on youth with an overperforming veteran on their roster – should you trade or keep him?

Young clearly doesn’t fit with Chicago’s timeline as he’s in his 14th season. With his contract running until the end of the 2021-22 season, Chicago doesn’t need to trade him this year if they fear losing the big man for free. Due to his current play, however, Young’s stock will never be higher.

He could fill a similar bench role for a playoff team, especially one lacking depth in the frontcourt or in need of some dependability. The Miami Heat, for example, are seen as a suitable trade partner.

Plus, with only $6 million of his $14.2 million contract guaranteed for next season, it wouldn’t be difficult to move Young. It remains to be seen what the Bulls could get in return, although salary-cap flexibility is reportedly important to the Bulls’ front office.


The same reasons that make Young attractive to teams contending for a championship are the exact same reasons why the Bulls should keep him.

But that’s only if they want to make a push for the postseason. Young would undoubtedly help Chicago make a run, especially with WCJ’s injury problems. The playoffs don’t seem to be out of reach for the Bulls this year either due to the newly-introduced play-in tournament, and the number of teams with similar records around those play-in places.

Any team needs a glue guy like Young on its roster. Any young team, like Chicago, needs his veteran presence on and off the court. Lastly, Donovan’s offense is clearly bringing out the best in him.

Wherever he ends up playing basketball come playoff time, Thaddeus Young has become important to the Chicago Bulls in one way or another.

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About Charlie Liptrott

Charlie writes about the Chicago Bulls, and is a UK based NBA fan and freelance sports journalist.

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