One of the Indiana Pacers’ offseason priorities is re-signing unrestricted free agent power forward Thaddeus Young.

The 30-year old Young concluded his third year in Indianapolis. He averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in the 2018-19 NBA season. He also earned $13.7 million.

Young is one of six Pacers whose contracts have expired. The others are Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph, Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews, and Kyle O’Quinn. Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has his work cut out for him in the offseason.

Could Pacers fans have seen the last of Young in Pacers Blue and Gold? We certainly hope not.

Let’s dig deeper into the reasons why Indy should keep Thad Young.

3. Veteran Leadership

Thaddeus Young

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While shooting guard Victor Oladipo is unarguably the leader of the Indiana Pacers, Thad Young also plays an important veteran leadership role. With 12 years of NBA experience tucked under his belt, he was the most experienced player on Indiana’s roster in 2018-19.

Young’s steadying influence is crucial for his teammates. More specifically, guys like Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Leaf, Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson, and Edmond Sumner benefit greatly from Young’s locker room presence.

In fact, the NBA announced on April 1 Young is one of the 12 nominees for the 2018-19 Twyman Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.

That’s saying a lot about Young’s value to the Indiana Pacers.

2. Defense

Thaddeus Young, Buddy Hield, Darren Collison

Thad Young is one of the most underrated defenders in the NBA. Take it from 2019 NBA MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Antetokountmpo gave props to Young’s defense after the Bucks beat the Pacers, 106-97, on February 13, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez.

Thaddeus Young is a great guy, first of all. Amazing player, amazing teammate, plays hard.

When I get to the paint, three guys swarm at me. That’s the only way. They’ve got to all work together to stop me from making plays — not getting points, from making plays. He’s a great defensive guy.

After Indy’s 106-103 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on January 27, the Pacers had outscored the opposition by 183 points when Young takes the court.

While Young is a solid perimeter defender, he also excels matching up with other bigs down low. Antetokounmpo’s statement serves as hard evidence.

The Pacers were the best defensive unit in the NBA in 2018-19. They limited other teams to a league-best 104.7 points per game. Young averaged 1.52 steals per game. That’s good for 14th in the entire league.

Defense wins championships, and Indiana needs a solid defender such as Thaddeus Young in its quest for its first NBA title.

1. Championship Aspirations

Thaddeus Young

Let’s be honest: if Julius Randle tests the free agent market during the offseason, the Pacers must try to sign him. He averaged a career-best 21.4 points to go along with 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Randle and Young’s games are eerily similar. Aside from the fact they’re both lefties, they score in a variety of ways – post-ups, three-pointers, and mid-range jumpers, to name a few. They’re also good defenders.

Here’s the clincher: Randle is younger than Young by six years. The former is the better long-term solution.

However, getting Randle isn’t a sure bet. He has a player option worth $9.073 million in 2019-20. If he stays in New Orleans, the Pacers are better off re-signing Young. He’s helped the Pacers remain playoff contenders in the East.

Unfortunately, Indiana hasn’t gotten past the first round in the past three years. Had Victor Oladipo stayed healthy, the Pacers would’ve gotten in the way of the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors’ title aspirations this season.

Oladipo should return with a vengeance in 2019-20. If Pritchard and Co. retain the Pacers’ nucleus and sign a key free agent such as All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, they should become title contenders.

A savvy veteran such as Thaddeus Young should play a major role.