Philadelphia 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski announced today that the team has exercised the third-year contract option for Marreese Speights and the fourth-year contract options for Jason Smith and Thaddeus Young.

“Thaddeus, Jason and Marreese are three of our young players who have done everything asked of them and continue to show improvement every time they step out on the court,” Stefanski said. “We are excited about the way they have developed to this point and we are looking to forward them continuing their careers with the Sixers.”

Speights (6-10, 245) was the 16th overall pick by the Sixers in the 2008 NBA Draft.  As a rookie last season, he averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in just 16.0 minutes per game while shooting 50.2% from the floor.  He would have ranked third among rookies in field goal percentage had he qualified.  This preseason, Speights is second on the team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.4 rpg) despite playing just over 20 minutes per game.

Smith (7-0, 240) was originally selected by Miami with the 20th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, but was acquired in a draft night trade by the Sixers.  He missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during a workout session in August of 2008.  As a rookie in 2007-08, Smith appeared in 76 games, averaging 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game.  This preseason, he is averaging 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.

Young (6-8, 220) was the 12th overall pick by Philadelphia in the 2007 NBA Draft.  He averaged 15.3 points last season, up from 8.2 as a rookie in 2007-08.  That marked the biggest increase in scoring average of any player in the league last season with a minimum of 50 games played.  Over his final 15 games played in 2008-09, Young averaged 21.3 points on 56.3% shooting.  For his career, Young is shooting 51.0% from the floor and has 173 steals to 182 turnovers.

Speights (22 years old), Smith (23) and Young (21) join Jrue Holiday (19) and Lou Williams (turns 23 on Oct. 27th) as the quintet of Sixers who will be 23 years or younger heading into the season opener at Orlando on Oct. 28th.