Nick Young is currently a member of the Lakers. And, if you listen to Young tell it, he would like to continue to be a Laker. This, on a lot of levels, makes sense. Young is from Los Angeles. He went to school at USC. After signing a one year deal with the team as a free agent back in 2013, he had one of his best statistical seasons under Mike D’Antoni and promptly signed on for 4 more years while making it pretty clear he loved playing for the franchise.
Of course, that first season was Young’s high-point with team. His play on the court has steadily declined and last year he also had a very private matter turn public in a way which jeopardized the locker room and his relationship with D’Angelo Russell. Regardless of how you view that situation or who you blame, its impact is still being felt. And, ultimately, that means it is likely time to move on.
Again, though, Young seems open to a return. He told Mark Medina of the LA Daily News that he “can’t be mad forever” and, as Medina explains, is ready to give it a go:
Young indirectly outlined reasons for the Lakers to consider giving him another chance. He reported devoting plenty of his offseason toward improving his strength and conditioning. After clashing the past two seasons with then-Lakers coach Byron Scott about his public criticisms and role, Young sounded thrilled about Luke Walton’s subsequent hiring.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Young said of Walton, who spent the past two seasons as a Golden State Warriors assistant. “Luke is a big-time coach and came from a championship team. I think I have the tools that we can use as a shooter.”
In a vacuum, that’s all fine. Of course, this situation doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Young has played poorly. There are circumstances which contributed to that, but when you tack on his fit within a locker room which is young and ready to move on without his (potentially negative) influence and, well, it’s clear which way the scales are tipping.
This moves us to how to extricate him from the team. It really comes down to two options: trade or waive.
I think we can rule out a trade. Based on reports, the team has been trying to move him for over a year and they have not been able to do so. Young’s cap number may not be terrible, but the fact that he has two years left on his deal with the second year being a player option isn’t a positive. Add to this his reputation — which is, at best a mostly harmless knucklehead and at worst a guy who can be an actively negative influence on young players — and Young arguably has negative trade value.
So, the team should waive him. Within this option there are three scenarios:
1. The team waives him outright, eating his full salary for both season and taking the full cap hit this upcoming season and the following one.
2. Waive him using the stretch provision. This would allow the Lakers to take his remaining $11 million and “stretch” that amount over 5 seasons for a cap hit of roughly $2.2 million per season for the next half decade. This must be done before the end of August.
3. Waive him for his full salary this year, then stretch his salary for his final season over 3 seasons for a cap hit of roughly $1.85 million over the next three years.
Of all these options, number 3 looks like the best one. Financially it is the best since it allows the Lakers to take the worst part of the cap hit next season while also having the stretch amount be less than what it would be if they were to apply it to the full amount of the contract. And logistically it still accomplishes the goal of moving on from the player.
Lastly, I really want to say that while I would fully endorse the team waiving Young, I still wish him the best. I was pleasantly surprised at his level of play in his first season and truly enjoyed the exuberance and fun he brought to a downtrodden team that was not very good. His love of being a Laker stood out as a major positive in the wake of Dwight Howard leaving money on the table to join the Rockets and other FA’s shunning the team to sign elsewhere.
That said, I think it’s clear what the prudent move is now. The only question is when and how it happens.