Young returns, Beasley improving '09-10 stock

April, 15, 2009
04/15/09
10:08
AM ET
Coming back on the early side of his initial two-to-three-week timetable, Thaddeus Young made his return from a sprained ankle Tuesday versus the Celtics. By all accounts, it was a success: Young was active, taking 16 shots and nabbing three steals in 29 minutes en route to 18 points. Ah, the miracles of youth -- Young expected to play only about 20 minutes -- and you can make note that he's a quick healer.

His early return means you can use him for the final game of the season, against a Cavaliers team that will likely play its starters sparingly, if at all, but it's Young's keeper value that's more intriguing at this point of the season. It's rare for a 20-year-old to become a productive full-time starter on a playoff-caliber team, and next season is about when he should be ready to jump from serviceable fantasy performer to essential cog. Compared to last season, Young has already improved his 3-point shooting dramatically: he went from shooting 31.6 percent on 0.3 3-point attempts per game to 34.6 percent on 2.2 attempts. He shot at least 36 percent from long range each month, except for a brutal December (25 percent). Considering the Sixers' dire need for 3-point shooting, no one will bat an eye if he increases his attempts.

For the most part, Young lives in the paint, but you couldn't tell by his free-throw attempts. Even though about half of his shot attempts come inside the paint, he's averaging only 2.5 free throw attempts per game. That's where a full season of starting experience will come in handy; officials give more respect to veterans, and Young can learn how to manipulate officials and create more contact.

Fortunately, his modest season statistics will help keep his draft-day value down, but as his 18.6 scoring average since the All-Star break indicates, he has top-flight scoring potential. Imagine if the Sixers make an offseason adjustment like shifting Elton Brand to center and moving Young to power forward and running the floor more, aligning their talent better and solving their most glaring team needs; Young's upside would be through the roof.

Either way, comparing Young's jump in production to the career growth of your typical productive youngster (think Carmelo Anthony or Andrew Bynum) implies a lot more where this season came from.

Under the Boards

Filling in for the suspended Ray Allen, Tony Allen went off for 18 points, five assists, four rebounds, three steals and a 3-pointer. Coach Doc Rivers talked about how important it was to get his bench in a groove for the playoffs, and it'd be shocking if Ray Allen or Paul Pierce played many minutes in the season finale Wednesday, making an encore performance a realistic possibility. … If you're in a close battle for your league title, it had to be infuriating to see Dwyane Wade sit out Tuesday, and the Hawks were even more thorough, limiting the minutes of all their key players. (You may not have noticed Marvin Williams returned from a back injury, for what it's worth.) On the bright side, ESPN has removed the undroppable tag from all players. … You gotta love the fact that Ronald Murray went crazy without having to fight the likes of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby for the ball, chucking up 20 shots -- making just five -- and taking eight free throws. He'll probably carry over that extra responsibility into the Hawks' contest against the Grizzlies. … How many people are paying attention to Michael Beasley's (very) late-season surge? How faint a memory will it be to most owners six months from now? He had his third straight game of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, only this time he accomplished it in 24 minutes. One thing the Heat really lack is a legitimate option behind Wade, and it would be silly to limit the minutes of the No. 2 overall pick next season, Udonis Haslem or no Udonis Haslem. Let the hype begin.

Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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