When Scottie Barnes was born, Thaddeus Young was just entering high school. So it’s only fitting that now, at age 33, Young is playing the role of teacher and mentor to the 20-year-old Toronto Raptors rookie sensation.
Young, who is the oldest player on the Raptors, has been working with Barnes since the veteran joined the team from San Antonio via trade in mid-February. In his 15 games with the Raptors, Young has averaged 17.5 minutes, 5.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Though his time with the team has been short, it's the knowledge he brings from his 15 years in the league that has had a significant impact.
In the last month, Young has been spending time with both Barnes and Precious Achiuwa to help their game evolve and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has noticed the influence the veteran forward is having on the younger players.
“I think as soon as Thad figured out where he was supposed to go with us, it helped him,” Nurse said. “You obviously have seen him run really hard to the corners and get some transition threes and some kick-out threes and I think you probably noticed Precious following a bit in those footsteps too. He has certainly brought a veteran presence.”
Barnes recorded his 11th double-double of the season and a career-high 31 points and 17 rebounds on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. He was then just four rebounds short of another double-double on Sunday, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists in Toronto’s road win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I was talking to Scottie the other day as we were watching games,” Young told Sportsnet. “I was also playing cards on the plane, but I was also watching him [laughs], but just telling him like, ‘Hey, you got to do this, you got to do that.’ It’s always just helping him and making sure that he's getting better as an individual player, but also make sure that he's growing his game. He's developing his mind as well.”
Against the Sixers on Sunday, Achiuwa had 21 points and nine rebounds. The second-year forward has now scored in double figures in a career-high seven straight games.
“Precious is a really good one,” Young said. “He is very athletic and he understands how to go out and use that presence. Sometimes, we have to think about it in a different way and with a different mindset and that's what I'm trying to get him to do as well.”
Barely a week into Young’s time with the Raptors, Achiuwa could immediately feel the impact the veteran was having on his own physical and mental game.
“He understands the game and he’s been in the league for a while.” Achiuwa said last month. “I’m very observant of people and I learned a lot just by watching him. Anything he would say I would go up to him and ask, ‘Hey, what did you see or what did you think happened there and what could I have done?’ He was always willing to share whatever he saw or thought. Just having that veteran leadership in the locker room is important and I’ve learned a lot from him personally.”
Young knows that having the young players work on the mental part of the game is just as important to their development.
“I'm just helping these guys think the game as opposed to just playing the game because [those are] two different things. And they've been doing really, really, well. Since I've gotten here, Precious’ game is also on another level and so has Scottie’s.”
The Raptors will have 10 games left on their schedule after facing the Bulls in Chicago on Monday night and Young is hoping he can help guide the young core into a meaningful playoff run.
“Being in my 15th season, I've seen a lot of things, I've done a lot of stuff,” Young added. “I've carved out a really good role for myself and a really good name for myself. I want to come in and help us and I want to make sure that these young guys are doing what they're supposed to do as players.
“It's good to see these young guys being able to go out there and play and just have fun and continuously get better because you know my time is almost up. I don't know how many more years I'm going to play but my job is to come in, help do the things that I can do but also help these young guys continue to develop their games and continue to grow their games so they can have the long successful careers like I’ve had.”