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How many minutes would Thad Young even play for Suns?

Breaking down the Suns potential rotation with Thaddeus Young

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since @FlexFromJersey brought it up and it was confirmed by Shams Charania, a lot has been said about the Phoenix Suns possibly acquiring Thaddeus Young. A more complete break down of the potential trade can be found at Dave King’s article here.

However, a lot of people (Dave included) have had a hard time picturing where Thad’s minutes would come from in the Suns’ rotation. Exhibit A below:

Although I agree with the conclusion - it would be hard to find exactly 24 minutes for him in Phoenix - I don’t agree with the premises that (i) a player like Young would not find valuable minutes in the Suns’ rotation; and (ii) the addition of Chandler Hutchison impacts the available minutes in any way (especially if it is confirmed that he signed a two-way deal).

Thad is a 6’8’’, 235lb veteran who played and average of 24 minutes for the Bulls in the past 2 seasons, as a versatile defender with a long 14-year career on his back. On a team that is openly looking for size and values defense and leadership, his inside presence and rebounding would certainly be a valuable addition.

Chicago Bulls v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

And while he is not prolific as a shooter, he shot 33.1% from 3 over his career (same as Torrey Craig) on 1.5 attempts per game (vs. 2.2 from Craig). Yes, he shot an abysmal 26.7% on 0.7 attempts last season, but he was at 35.6% on 3.5 attempts the season before. He is willing to shoot and with Paul and Monty, he should be able to match Craig’s production from deep.

It is hard to believe that Hutchison - a 6’6’’, 210lb small forward - would be able to take meaningful minutes away from him, specially being a 30% 3pt shooter on 1.1 attempts his career (even if he did shoot 36.8% last season).

The Rotation

To start us off, here’s what the current roster contemplates, with the minutes each player had last season in their own teams, including the confirmed additions:

For this exercise, we will consider that Dario and Stix are the players involved in the trade, and then break down the rotation by position (guards, forwards and centers). It’s worth noting that these minutes will vary on a game-by-game bases, but we are aiming at the expected average for the regular season.

The Guards (96 minutes available): Yes, the Suns have added Elfrid Payton and Landry Shamet where once they had Carter, Langston and Moore adding close to 0 minutes to a regular rotation. That will more likely affect Payne, Paul and Book’s minutes much more than it will Jae and (potentially) Young. However, let’s tackle it anyway, for the sake of the exercise.

Shamet is unlikely to play much alongside Booker. Assuming Monty will keep the CP3-Book stagger, it’s likely that Book will play more with Cam Payne as Paul sits, and Shamet with CP3 when Devin is out. In that case, it would be surprising if Shamet was able to keep at 20mpg.

Assuming Devin keeps all of his 34 minutes, he will likely drop to around 14. However, Booker and CP3 may need some more rest, especially at the beginning of the season, given the short offseason and - in Booker’s case - a gold medal run. There may be a couple more minutes available - and, who knows, maybe some Payne-Shamet lineups as well.

We should not count on Payton getting regular minutes, but rather some time when CP3 or Payne miss games. In any case, he’ll be fighting for minutes with Payne and Shamet, not the rest of the roster.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

The Forwards (96 minutes available): If/once Thaddeus Young is a Phoenix Sun, this is where he will get most (but not all!) of his minutes. We’d have to assume Mikal and Jae’s minutes will take slight hits.

Mikal was at 33 and it wouldn’t be egregious to go down to 30 - especially if he signs an extension and doesn’t have to prove his worth for a future contract. Jae, who had 28, could very well go down to 25 - especially considering he is 31 years old and just came out of not one, but two finals runs, followed by two shortened offseason.

This allows Cam Johnson to keep his 24 minutes per game and takes the total minutes at the forward spots to 79. Young would have 17 minutes per game at the Forward rotation - mainly as a PF.

Abdul Nader and Chandler Hutchins would be in similar positions to Elfird Payton. They are capable players, but would not get regular minutes unless an injury were to happen.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Center (48 minutes available): With Ayton and McGee as the clear options at this position, we would have to assume Frank Kaminsky would struggle for time. He is not a small-ball five and is clearly behind the other two.

Now, here’s the catch: we should not assume the Suns would have a big on the court at all times. It is more than likely that they go small from time to time. And when they do, Thaddeus Young is the clear option.

According to Basketball Reference, Young played around 100 minutes without any big on the floor with Chicago last season.

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Assuming Ayton’s minutes are also at the 30 range (hardly a drop from last season) and McGee can put up 15 minutes as his back-up, that allows Thad to play around 3 minutes as the small ball 5.

Here is the final look at that depth chart, after the exercise:

How about that? With 20 minutes per game (17 at the wing and 3 as a small ball 5), do you still think it would be that hard to find him meaningful minutes?

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