It’s time for the Bulls to do right by Thaddeus Young — and trade him
The minutes the veteran forward thought he would be getting just aren’t there, and when they are, they’re blocking the progress of the suddenly enigmatic Lauri Markkanen.
The Bulls deserve at least some credit at the midpoint of the season.
After all, it isn’t easy to make veteran forward Thaddeus Young — a player whose reputation leaguewide had always been sterling — unhappy this quickly into a season.
But the organization has somehow done it. After 13 NBA seasons, they’ve broken him.
That’s why it’s time to pull the plug on the Young experiment and look to trade him as the Feb. 6 trade deadline approaches.
It’s not Young’s fault. When he signed a three-year, $41 million contract to leave the Pacers for the Bulls’ rebuild last summer, he did so with different expectations. The Sun-Times reported last month that Young and his camp thought there would be more minutes for him as a key reserve.
And while he remains the good soldier, doing what has been asked of him with no pushback, he also has been honest with the media, letting it be known that he not only would like more minutes, but believes his experience would be welcomed as part of the group that closes out games.
But there’s another reason Young should be dealt.
If the Bulls truly believe that Lauri Markkanen is one of the pillars of the rebuild, it’s becoming clear that he needs to have the chance to sink or swim with extended playing time.
Markkanen and Young shouldn’t be an either-or from game to game.
Monday in Boston was a reminder of that. Young got it going after the starters stumbled through the first quarter and dug a huge deficit, so coach Jim Boylen rode the veteran. In doing so, that meant Markkanen sat for almost 11 minutes.
That’s a problem, and even the team-first-minded Markkanen couldn’t duck that.
“I feel like you get a little bit cold after that,” he said.
He should know because Monday wasn’t the first time that happened to him this season.
“But it’s nothing you can’t get through,” Markkanen said. “Twenty-two years old, you get warm going to the scorers’ table.”
Maybe, but Markkanen has rarely done that.
The 7-footer has lost his “unicorn” status this season, going from the next big thing in the Bulls’ minds to an enigma. The blame starts with Markkanen, and he didn’t deny that.
“Obviously, I had my bad stretch in the beginning and kind of picked it up after that,” Markkanen said when asked to assess his season. “Just don’t know what to say. I’ve had my moments, but I obviously expect more from myself.
“So I’m disappointed in myself because I think if I played at a normal level, we’d probably have a couple more wins. I think I can do a better job.”
Not sitting and watching Young do his thing.
Maybe the Bulls’ intent in adding Young was good initially. The Bulls were hoping that Young could get his minutes backing up Otto Porter Jr. at the three and Markkanen at the four. There was even the thought of going small late in games, using Young at the four and Markkanen at the five for his outside shooting over Wendell Carter Jr.
That was predicated on Markkanen using last offseason to bulk up like he did. But Markkanen has shown that he can’t handle extended minutes against opposing centers. And with Carter’s defense and rebounding so necessary — at least before the ankle injury that could cost him the next month — Boylen has been painted into a corner with his rotation.
That’s why someone has to go.
Young deserves better at this point.