I have written, on more than one occasion, that Nick Young would not/should not be on this year’s Lakers. The drama from last year mixed with the two pretty bad seasons left little reason to feel good about a Young return this year.
But, to be completely honest, I am mostly indifferent about Young. I know this is pretty rare for Lakers fans, though. There is a large swath of fans who see him as not just a bad player on the court, but a bad influence off it. Then, I know others who see him as — in the right sized role — a useful talent who is just a quirky, mostly harmless dude who likes to have fun on and off the court.
If I had to really self examine my opinions, I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. Young can be useful and can be a good natured guy who simply enjoys himself (especially enjoying living in Los Angeles while being a Laker). Thing is, Young also can be a severe drag on lineups due to ball-hoggery and low efficiency while exhibiting the type of immaturity off the floor which can be too negative an influence on young (and potentially impressionable) teammates.
For those who have their minds made up about Young, there is no reconciling these differing views. He is one or the other and no amount of explaining is going to change a mind. And, really, I don’t want to go down that route anyway nor do I blame folks for seeing things the way they do. There is enough evidence on both sides to come to a conclusion either way and, to be fair, Young isn’t so good a player where arguing over such things makes sense to me. No offense if you’re reading this, Nick.
Whatever you think if Young, though, he’s likely going to make the Lakers’ final roster. I know this because, well, when given an opportunity in preseason to prove he should make the team he has played well enough to do just that. Consider the following:
- After not appearing in the team’s 1st preseason game, Young has appeared in the other 4 games and played 10, 23, 32, and 13 minutes
- In those minutes he has scored 6, 14, 14, and 9 points
- He is shooting 51.7% from the field (15-29), including 57.9% from behind the arc (11-19)
- Per 36 minutes he is 3rd on the team in scoring
- He currently has a PER of 22.5 which is 3rd on the team behind Russell (23.9) and Clarkson (22.9)
And this says nothing of him actually looking like he gives a damn on defense, being attentive and engaged on that end of the floor. Don’t get me wrong, Young will never be an impactful defender who you lean on to get stops. But he has been someone who is competing on that end, effectively staying with his own man when guarding the ball, and doing enough in help situations to imply he actually cares on that end. Doing that as a 6’7″ wing has at least neutral value, which is more than can be said of other Lakers’ defenders.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot. And maybe it’s actually not. But when asked about him playing better on that end of the floor he said the following:
Young on improved defense: “It helps when you have a coach that will talk to you about it & prepare you, try to help you.” (via @SpectrumSN)
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) October 14, 2016
This quote isn’t some proof he’s actually good defensively, but it does imply two things to me: 1). He is cognizant of trying to play better defense and how that impacts his ability to get on the floor, and 2). He trusts this coaching staff and is, seemingly, buying in to what they’re telling him.
Yes, there’s enough shade thrown at Byron Scott in that quote to block out the sun while standing on Mercury. But I think the point stands. Nick Young is trying for this coach and it is showing up in his play. Whether he was trying or not for the last coach is something you can ask him about, but I think the answer to that question also showed up in his play.
Now, I’m not saying Young has come to some sort of crossroads at his career and he’s come out the other side as a changed player. That doesn’t happen a decade into a player’s career. Young is, basically, who he is as at this point. The question is whether that player, with his skill set channeled the way it can be under Walton and when engaged with positive buy-in, can be of use to the Lakers over the long term or whether this short stretch of good play in the preseason is some sort of anomaly.
The people who have made up their minds about Young will be happy to tell you the answer to this question. I, for one, don’t know. What I do know is that Nick Young is very likely to make the final roster and, if he actually does keep playing like he is, he’s also likely to earn some minutes. Considering what I have said in the past, this is no small thing to me. Whether or not it will one day make me be less indifferent will depend on a variety of factors, but for now I can at least say I am happy to see him do well.