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Thaddeus Young's Free Agency Will Be First Test For New Sixers Owners

When the new front office is in place and the lockout is over, the Sixers won't have much time to make a decision on Thad Young. A decision which could have ramifications for years to come.

Joshua Harris and Co. are currently waiting for the NBA Board of Governors to approve their purchase of the Philadelphia 76ers. Once that hurdle is cleared, they're most likely going to have to wait some more for the lockout out to end. When the paperwork is done and the sides finally sign a new labor agreement, the Sixers will be faced with a big decision almost immediately, and it's a decision they're going to have to make quickly.

Thaddeus Young will be a restricted free agent when the lockout ends, meaning if the new collective bargaining agreement works like the last one did, the Sixers will be able to offer him a larger contract than anyone else and if another team tries to sign him, they'll be given the opportunity to match the offer to keep him. Thad also has the option to sign his $3.99M qualifying offer, play out the year in Philly, then become an unrestricted free agent the following summer. In short, if the Sixers want Thad, they'll get him, at least for one more season.

Before we go any further, let's just get this out of the way. The Sixers do want Thad. They should want Thad. He played his role nearly to perfection last season. His offense off the bench was a catalyst for so many runs throughout the season, and if you had to pick one reliable thing on the offensive end, it was Thad getting the ball facing the hoop at the elbow. He was nearly unstoppable in those situations. The question isn't whether they want him, the question is how much do they want him and how much should they be willing to pay to keep him.

It's been reported Thad was looking for an extension prior to last season in the neighborhood of $11M/year. That's too much no matter where the cap lands under the new CBA. A contract somewhere in the $8M/year range is probably fair, but even tying up that much money in Thad would eat into the cap space which will eventually be freed up when Brand and Lou Williams come off the books. There's a tradeoff here. They'll be a better team this season with Thad than they would be without him, but will signing Thad to a long-term deal prohibit the team from making a big move for a player who would help the team even more next summer, or the summer after? There's obviously no way to tell.

If the new front office - whoever that may be - is smart, they'll come up with a value for Thad on their own and if they can't get him for that price they'll let him walk. That means if he demands more money in direct negotiations, you don't give in. Simple enough. But it also means if another team signs him for a number higher than yours, you don't match. The latter situation was rare under the last CBA, but I have a feeling that won't be the case when this lockout ends.

There's a misconception floating out there about the lockout and how things will work when it ends. The owners want more money, that's pretty easy to figure out. They also want to set up a system that doesn't punish them for their mistakes. This comes in the form of a "hard cap" and most likely a limit to the number of guaranteed years they can offer players. The distinction here is that the owners are still going to be the owners when the lockout ends, and they're still going to insist on recycling horrible general managers. The mistakes aren't going to stop happening, in fact, I think there will be even more mistakes because the contracts won't be as long. Instead of someone signing Thad to a five-year, $58M offer sheet like Memphis did with Josh Smith, someone will sign him for three years, $33M. 

If the owners latest proposal of a $62M target with a flex cap is where the number settles, as many as 13 teams could have the cap space to sign Thad to an offer sheet for $11M/year. One of those teams has Billy King making its personnel decision, another has David Kahn. If the new CBA breaks in the owners' favor, and every sign indicates that it will, you're going to have  dozen organizations out there, some with particularly questionable men with their finger on the trigger, and an especially shallow free agent pool. That's a recipe for Thad Young to get a big contract. There's a very good chance the market for Thad will be set by an overzealous general manager (maybe even Ed Stefanski) with a safety net created by the new CBA backing him up. It's highly likely the decision the Sixers' new front office will have to make is whether or not to match an outrageous offer sheet for Thad. How they react in that situation should tell us a whole lot about how Harris' guys will run this team. But hey, even if they do match a ridiculous offer,  it'll probably only be for three years, four at the most.