Experienced Young brings athleticism, high character to Wolves

New Timberwolves forward Thaddeus Young smiles for the crowd at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday.  

Brad Rempel/Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — Now that he’s arrived in the Twin Cities, Thaddeus Young would like to clear up any misconceptions.

He’s not a "grizzled, old" veteran, he said. His seven years of NBA service are a product of coming out of Georgia Tech as a 19-year-old and becoming a pillar player in Philadelphia.

"I feel like I’m still fresh in the game, young, and can still go out there and do a lot of different things," Young said Tuesday after being introduced as a Timberwolf at the Minnesota State Fair. "It’s just I have more years than everybody, so I’m a little bit more experienced."

He hasn’t reached his 30s. Won’t for four more years.

"A lot of people do actually believe that (I’m 30), or they’ll be like ‘you’ve only been in the league four years,’ and I’m like ‘no, I’m going into my eighth,’" Young said. "Or they’ll be like ‘how old are you? 28? 29?’ ‘Um, just turned 26.’"

And he wasn’t exactly pining to leave the 76ers, even after a tanked 2013-14 season that featured a 26-game losing streak tied for the worst in NBA history.

Young called it "the toughest season of my career." But it was still difficult to leave behind the city where he, in many ways, grew from a long, lanky boy to a young, mature man.

"I still hold Philadelphia close to my heart," Young said. "Each and every year, I’ve continued to get closer and closer to Philadelphia, and for me to just leave and go, it was definitely hard. It was saddening. But at the end of the day, it’s a business, and you have to start new chapters in your life and start new journeys.

"Hopefully this journey here is gonna be another long journey."

If he continues his ascension as a foolproof NBA power forward, the Wolves wouldn’t mind that, either.

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In trading for the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward originally from Memphis, Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders sought an experienced body and soul that could immediately start in place of Kevin Love. He doesn’t expect to replace Love’s 26-point, 12-rebound, four-assist stat line, Young said, but he is cocksure his skill set and demeanor both fit here after he averaged a career-high 17.9 points and 2.1 steals per game last year.

"I’m agile, I’m quick, I’m smart, I have a high basketball IQ, and I’m able to work myself out of different situations," Young said.

Said Saunders: "We felt with the young players that we have that if we could get a solid veteran guy that has basically a borderline All-Star statistically that that would help us. We looked at Thaddeus, looking at the makeup of our team … we’ve all of a sudden become athletic, exciting and fast instead of being maybe a little bit slower and more plodding."

Throughout the process of trying to deal Love to Cleveland, Saunders had general manager Milt Newton maintain a frequent dialogue with Sixers GM Sam Hinkie. The original plan was to trade Love in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, a first-round pick and Anthony Bennett and deal Bennett for Young in a separate trade.

But the Wolves were able to swing a three-team swap that landed them Young and Bennett, sending Miami’s first-round pick belonging to Cleveland back to Philadelphia along with guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Like Love, who forced his way out of Minnesota by asking for a trade, Young can opt out of his contract after next season. So the Sixers were happy to get something in return.

"This is a move we think moves our program forward," Hinkie told philly.com Wednesday. "During all of my time here, he really was a day-to-day pro, and that’s something that’s really, really appreciated."

It’ll take a prosperous year in the Twin Cities for the Wolves to retain such a highly respected player. But Saunders deemed the risk necessary for a man Bennett can develop behind.

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If Young does walk, he’ll leave at least $9.7 million of salary Minnesota could use to lure another free agent. But that’s been difficult to do for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs for 10 years — "way, way too long," Young said.

Furthermore, a locker room that was sometimes short on vocal leadership last year needs guys like Young, Saunders said.

"More than anything else, as you will all find out, he’s a super character individual," Saunders said. "He will add as much to our locker room with his presence, his leadership as he will with his athletic ability."

Saunders will be the sixth different coach Young’s played for during his NBA tenure. He’s been to the playoffs four times, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012.

And he believes the rollercoaster that’s carried him to Minnesota can prove beneficial in serving as a go-to voice on a young roster featuring Wiggins, Bennett, fellow rookie Zach LaVine and second-year players Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.

"I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I’ve seen it," Young said. "It’s a crazy situation, but I’m all for it. I think I’ll be perfect to help these young guys, and I think I’ll be perfect to help this franchise."

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