Thaddeus Young has been a revelation for the Bulls this season after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign under Jim Boylen. Billy Donovan has helped bring out the best in Young by deploying him as a two-way menace who crushes it around the basket and creates open looks for his teammates all over the court with his surprisingly brilliant passing.
He’s truly having a magnificent season, averaging 11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 60.0% from the field. The Bulls’ offensive rating with Young on the court is 116.7, and that jumps to 120.2 in his 480 minutes with Zach LaVine. He has one of the best on/off differentials on the team, with fellow vet Garrett Temple coming in at No. 1.
Thaddeus "Thadgic Johnson" Young picks Mason Plumlee's pocket and drops the no look dime on the break pic.twitter.com/qbZouSHq2B— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) February 18, 2021
With the Bulls now firmly in the playoff mix, the previous no-brainer consensus of trading the 32-year-old has shifted to a debate over potentially keeping him around to help this team develop and fight for the postseason.
Chicago has a number of factors to consider when it comes to a Young trade as it balances short- and long-term goals.
One factor is the trade return, as now it’s at a point where the Bulls certainly shouldn’t just move him for anything, especially since he’s still under contract next season with $6 million of his $14.19 million deal guaranteed. Based on how he’s playing and the impact he’s making on this Bulls team, his trade value is skyrocketing.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks polled league executives on the trade market and got a rather shocking response:
We took a straw poll of league executives on which player outside of Bradley Beal could change the landscape of the playoff race.
The unanimous answer was the veteran Thaddeus Young.
The Celtics have long seemed like an obvious trade partner thanks to their trove of picks, young players and $28.5 million trade exception, but their recent collapse has them in a weird spot: the Bulls are even ahead of them in the standings! (Bulls in 6!)
Aside from Boston, any contender should want a piece of Young, so perhaps there will be a bidding war.
Of course, there is plenty of value in keeping him, as long as he doesn’t fall off a cliff and the season goes to hell. Though while the Bulls have been on a roll as of late, they must still do their due diligence and explore Young trades especially given this apparent consensus around the league. As painful as it would be to see him go, if they can get their hands on a prime asset or two, they have to really think about pulling the trigger because of how it could set the stage for bigger moves down the road.
LaVine’s future should be considered here as well. The two players clearly have a great rapport on and off the court. LaVine is dying to make the playoffs for the first time, so trading Young and making the team worse while getting rid of a close teammate might not sit well with him. The assumption is the front office would consult with LaVine before a potential Young trade and sell him on how it would help them make moves down the road.
The Bulls’ tough schedule leading up to the March 25 trade deadline could help determine the direction they take. If they start to fade, a Young deal would become easier to swallow. But if Young and the Bulls keep playing well and stay in the thick of this goofy East playoff race, the trade price should only go up, which makes the decision much tougher.