Teammate of the Year? They Should Call it the Thaddeus Young Award

This week’s edition is brought to you in part by Pacers Twitter, who were collectively and understandably getting sick of the doom and gloom inherent in this weekly department ever since the team went 4-10 in March and…ahem, I’m doing it again, aren’t I?

So the preview of the Celtics series, a hit piece on Tyreke Evans, a comparison to the 2016 Grizzlies…all of those will have to run some other time.

This week, we’re talking about the greatest teammate and glue guy in the NBA if not in all of sports, the one, the only Thaddeus Young.

Specifically, Young’s nomination for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.

Young is one of 12 nominees, a list that includes not just the Pacers forward but Steven Adams, Mike Conley, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Rudy Gay, Udonis Haslem, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, Khris Middleton, J.J. Redick, and Garrett Temple.

…wait, Udonis Haslem is still in the league? Well I’ll be, he’s actually played 35 minutes this year.

The award celebrates “Selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to the team.”

If that is not the perfect description of Thaddeus Young, both on the Pacers and elsewhere in the places he’s been in his journeyman NBA career, I don’t know what is.

The way Thad has taken over as the leader of the Pacers in the absence of the injured Victor Oladipo is a lot of the reason that despite an absolutely monstrous schedule in March, the Pacers have gone 21-21 without him, 23-21 if you count the wins Indiana got where Vic missed most of the game with injury against the Hawks and Raptors.

Considering what a train wreck the East is from the 6 seed downward, the 43-39 record that 23-21 projects to over a full season might still be good enough to say that the Pacers would be the 5 seed had Oladipo missed the entire season.

And it’s been Thad’s selfless play, on- and off-court leadership…and mentor and role model? If those are your criteria, you should probably rename the trophy to the Thaddeus Young Award.

The Pacers have kept their season from completely melting down thanks to three major factors.

One, this is a just plain good basketball team, with Myles Turner, Young, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic, and a solid pile of role players coming together to be greater than the sum of their parts—there’s a good reason this team looked like a potential 2 seed when Oladipo was still healthy (the Pacers, in games in which Oladipo appeared, went 25-11, a 57-25 season pace. Toronto, through games of April 1, is 55-23.)

Two, they have (and it pains me to say this) the right coach for their roster. Nate McMillan, for all his flaws as a designer of modern NBA offense, does have as his greatest strength the ability to manage veteran egos and keep a team on the same page, one reason he was such an effective assistant back when Frank Vogel was still in charge.

And three, they have Thad the Impaler, the greatest glue guy in sports.

Indiana traded the 20th pick in the 2016 draft to the Brooklyn Nets to get Young. The Nets drafted Caris LeVert.

And even as good as LeVert has been, and he’s a guy with tremendous upside in Brooklyn, I’d still rather have Thad.

So, I think, would most Pacers fans.

Thad was there to help coalesce the largely new-faces roster when the 2017-18 season started.

He has been there through a 48-win season that came a gift from the refs in Game 5 away from eliminating LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the first round.

And he is the stitching holding together the patchwork that is the Pacers’ roster without Oladipo.

Every team wants to believe that their glue guy is the ultimate glue guy, but nobody backs that up the way Thad does.

Whatever it takes to sign him in the offseason, Kevin Pritchard and friends needs to do to keep Thad on the roster.