Replacing Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup is an impossible task for the Los Angeles Lakers, but free-agent signee Nick Young is the perfect low-risk, high-reward starter to fill in while the Black Mamba heals from an Achilles tear.
That is, of course, if Kobe misses the August return date he's shooting for, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin via Twitter. But even if Bryant is ready to go for the season opener, Young should be the starter for the foreseeable future at the small forward position, according to general manager Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers are only able to offer the veteran’s minimum to free agents after signing center Chris Kaman to the $3.2 million “mini” mid-level exception, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter. Because of their sticky financial position, the Lakers should be thrilled to add a sharpshooting guard on a one-year deal worth $1.18 million, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
Last season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Young shot 35.7 percent from three-point range. That percentage was average compared to the rest of the NBA, but it was more efficient than Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and even Bryant, who shot 32.4 percent from distance. As a career 37.4 percent shooter from long range, Young’s time in Philly could certainly be viewed as a down year.
Statistics are one factor, but another matter entirely is Young’s ability to catch fire from deep. He’s shown in the past that his knack for getting hot can swing games, even on the highest stage.
In the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs, Young aided the Los Angeles Clippers in a miraculous Game 1 comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies by knocking down three clutch three-pointers in less than a minute. He finished with 19 points in just 24 minutes. The Clips capped a 99-98 victory by outscoring the Grizz 35-13 in the fourth quarter.
Few role players have the capability to help grab victory from the jaws of defeat. But as a stellar outside shooter, Young is one of the few.
A major reason why the former USC standout has had success at the pro level is his confidence and swagger. He is nicknamed “Swaggy P” after all.
The 28-year-old is what he is: a shooter. And nobody, perhaps not even a future Hall of Famer, will be able to change that.
Saying that Kobe can't stop him from putting up shots is dangerous territory. Those comments can be interpreted as downright foolish, but fans have to respect Young for oozing confidence, even if it’s irrational at times.
He’s far from gun-shy with his jumper, which makes him the perfect complement to an offense run by Steve Nash.
If the two-time MVP can return to form and take charge of running Mike D’Antoni’s offense—like he did during the glory days in Phoenix—Nash may discover a new favorite target.
Back during the 2004-05 season with the Phoenix Suns, Nash’s former teammate Quentin “Q” Richardson drained a franchise-record 226 three-pointers (eclipsing the previous mark of 199 three-pointers set by “Thunder” Dan Majerle).
Nash is at his best when he’s finding open teammates. Perhaps more to the point, plenty of teammates have had career years with the Canadian leading the way.
There's a chance Young will be poised for a breakout year beside Nash.
If nothing else, having a knockdown shooter to spread the floor will ease the pressure on Pau Gasol in the post. If teams decide to double the Spaniard down low, he can make them pay by finding Young on the perimeter.
Finding a replacement for Bryant wasn't going to happen for the Lakers in the short term. Nevertheless, L.A. got plenty of value for the veteran's minimum.