Nick Young couldn’t possibly have felt great about his Lakers signing Lou Williams this summer. The redundancy between the two is fairly obvious if simplified down to layman levels. Young and Williams are both chuckers best used off the bench to bring an immediate scoring punch to whichever lineup they’re joining on the court.
So, Young took the type of measures any normal person would if threatened with replacement by their employer: get a Tupac tattoo on the arm previously reserved for buckets. In all seriousness, though, trying to figure out what to expect from Young this season is pretty difficult given the several variables at play heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
First, we need to understand how we got to this point. Two years ago, Mike D’Antoni’s system lent itself to success in the form of spot-up jumpshots in efficient parts of the floor and isolations against defenses spread thin by excellent spacing. As a result, Young enjoyed a career season and earned the contract the Lakers seemed pretty quick to want to shed this offseason.
So, the question begs asking: is Young the player we saw under D’Antoni or the punchline to the joke that was last season? The answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle and, as such, he still deserves a spot on an NBA roster. But, Young has some roadblocks to overcome if he hopes to flip the narrative.
First, his relationship with Byron Scott must improve if he hopes for any of the consistent playing time he’ll need to show his worth. The tardiness off the court and lack of effort on it cannot continue to be a storyline moving forward. If none of that happens, we might see the rare example of the reverse Lakers role player bump in value. He’d join a pretty rare group of players who failed to improve their career outlook in Los Angeles.
Second, his natural position is pretty crowded. We already covered what Lou Williams brings off the bench. He’s the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and should see consistent minutes off the bench at the two. Before him, Jordan Clarkson should probably lead the Lakers in minutes played per game. Between those two, and whichever minutes Kobe plays at that spot, playing time will be hard to come by. There’s always the chance Young could win minutes from those guys, but based on fit and the Lakers long-term goals, it’s highly unlikely.
Fortunately for Young, the Lakers are extremely thin at small forward and his size lends itself to the position. After Kobe – who probably can’t be relied upon for more than 50 games or so – Scott has very few options. Ironically, Scott will have to choose between Young and a rookie (Anthony Brown), neither of whom he’d be particularly fond of leaning on heavily, one would think. He could also try Ryan Kelly at the three, but we all saw how that went last year. Young’s histrionics off the court may get frustrating, but no one on the Lakers looks the part of small forward better than he does.
Like I said earlier, Young should not be defined by his highs or lows. Yes, Mike D’Antoni built him up to levels we probably won’t see again, but last season was pretty much a debacle from start to finish thanks to injury and his clashes with Byron. When he’s playing at his best, fans love their Swaggy P – as evidenced by the ill-fated #StaySwaggy campaign. If he plays well and simply can’t find a consistent role, there’s always the chance some team overlooks his contract for the scoring punch he’d provide.
I honestly think we’ll see some uptick in value from Young this season, in some way or another.