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Clock is ticking: Jalen Smith or Thad Young?

Will the Phoenix Suns acquire Thaddeus Young this week, or stick with Stix?

San Antonio Spurs v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The new NBA season is only nine days away, so teams will be spending the next week finalizing their opening rosters. Once the season starts, trades will basically disappear until the new year and mid-season trade deadline approaches.

If the Phoenix Suns don’t acquire Thaddeus Young from the Spurs this week — with a rumored package to include the Suns’ Dario Saric (out injured most/all of this season) and Jalen Smith (not part of the primary rotation) — then you can expect the Suns will close the door on that trade idea until at least February, if ever.

As rumored, the Suns have had the following package on the table for the Spurs for the past two months.

Reportedly, the Suns could add a second round pick to sweeten a package that might not include much on-court production for the Spurs in 2021-22. Saric will miss all or most of the whole season due to knee surgery rehab and Jalen Smith is still quite raw. If the Spurs want to make the playoffs this year, he might not get much time on the court.

To date, the Spurs are hoping for better return on Thad Young, who they acquired in the DeMar DeRozan trade. He played very well for the Chicago Bulls in a point-forward role as a mid-post decision maker the last two years.

Despite only playing the 9th-most minutes per game last year (24.3) for the Bulls, Young was 5th in scoring (12.1), 4th in assists (4.3) and 3rd in rebounding (6.2).

But with the rebuilding Spurs, the 33-year old Young has played sparingly — 17.1 minutes per game, with 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and only 1.7 points.

I spoke with Noah, a podcaster/writer at our brother SBNation site PoundingtheRock.com, about how Thad is fitting in the with the Spurs, whether any other teams have been rumored tied to Young, and if they like the Smith/Saric package.

Second half of this pod has the interview with Noah.

The Suns see a lot of positives in a potential trade.

In sending out Saric and Smith, the Suns would lose little in terms of the 2021-22 team and, because Young becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, would save a lot of guaranteed money in 2022-23 without Saric and Smith’s $13 million on the books just as the Suns have to pay Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges along with Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

For this year, Young would be a big improvement over Torrey Craig, who played a big little role in the playoffs. Young would also be a good insurance policy on the Deandre Ayton / JaVale McGee center spot, in case of injury or rest or stretch of poor play or simply a small-ball passing/shooting lineup with Young as point-center. Lots of possibilities.

However, Young is definitely not a shooter who can help spread the floor. He’s a career 33% shooter on 1.5 three-point attempts per game, and drained only 26% of 0.7 attempts per game last year under Billy Donovan. However, the year before with the Bulls, under James Boylen, he made a more respectable 35% of 3.5 attempts per game. But in a 14-year career, only twice has he taken more than 2.2 per game.

If the Suns want Young for the whole year, the clock is ticking.

However, if the Suns want to let it ride with the team they have for now, they can still explore a Young trade nearer the deadline in February. That’s when they added Torrey Craig last year, and a delay lets the Suns see more of Cameron Johnson in a larger role.

Plus, Jalen “Stix” Smith might still develop into a good rotation piece with his spirited rebounding, rim protection and three point shooting. He has shown well this preseason when included in a regular lineup as the ‘garbage man’ who hangs near the rim or drop offs and putbacks — 9.7 points on 46% shooting, 9.7 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. He brings a skillset the Suns just don’t have — and could really use — in a power forward next to Ayton or McGee, as long as he can hold up defensively in space. He simply won’t play if he’s a matador on defense.

Stay tuned, Suns fans.