Why Nick Young Is Perfect for LA Lakers

Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2013

Feb 20, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Nick Young (1) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.  The Timberwolves defeated the 76ers 94-87. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace yourselves, everyone—Nick Young has arrived.

And he’s ready to take over Los Angeles on and off the court, both as a growing celebrity and a sharpshooter.

The Los Angeles Lakers play under some of the brightest and most pressing lights in all of sports. Oftentimes, that elevated intensity is simply overwhelming for some players—take Dwight Howard, for example. Others, though, thrive under that pounding pressure.

Young would fall under the latter category. He was sculpted for L.A.

The 6’7” forward—who also goes by the name “Swaggy P”—was exactly what the Lakers needed after Howard left for greener pastures this summer. They needed someone who’d shine on the red carpet as well as in the purple and gold, and who wasn’t afraid of big moments.

After bouncing around the league—he’s spent time with the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers—Young has put together a decent NBA resume. He’s totaled 11.3 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the field and about 37 percent from the three-point line.

But those numbers don’t tell his full story.

Young grew up in Los Angeles and played at the University of Southern California. As a kid, he idolized Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and—his new teammate—Kobe Bryant.

Both Young and (former Laker) Jordan Farmar, who have developed a friendship through AAU basketball growing up, took less money this summer in order to come to the Lakers.

“It was an easy decision,” Young told ESPN LA. “Who doesn’t want to play for the Lakers? Of course, I had to sit down and talk to my family and talk to my agent but I really felt like this was the best opportunity for me. Even though I had more money other places, I just felt like the chance to play in the spotlight and back home was too good to pass up.”

Young is the prototypical Laker—at least as far as style goes. He’s a walking fashion statement (he wore shorts to the ESPY’s and actually pulled it off), constantly appears at the Drew League and has an unwavering swagger in his step.

Although Young spent part of the 2012 season with the Clippers, he wasn’t given a real chance in the 22 games he played in. Heading into a full 2014 season with the Lakers, he’s ready to blossom into a consistent high-quality role player.

As of right now, the 28-year-old is in line for a starting job at small forward (per Rotoworld). And in Mike D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll-heavy offense that encourages wing players to launch jumpers quickly and often, Young will thrive.

He shot slightly over 35 percent from downtown last season, but with Pau Gasol passing out of the post and Bryant drawing most of the perimeter attention, Young will have clear range to fire.

When his Sixers squared off against the Lakers in the first of two meetings a season ago, Young lit Los Angeles for 30 points and netted 12 of his 23 shots. Even more encouraging, he nailed six of his 12 three-point attempts.

There are going to be games next season where Young won’t be able to hit anything. He’s a jump-shooter and sometimes nights like that happen. For example, the next time Philadelphia took on L.A. last season, he scored one point on a lone free throw.

The Lakers aren’t bringing Young in to score 20 points a game. But what they are asking him to do—in addition to shooting—is to break out. He has the potential to become a really effective scorer in the NBA, but he also needs to improve his defense and playmaking abilities.

The best part about this signing—aside from the ridiculous price—for the Lakers is that Young wants to be in Los Angeles. And he also wants to win.

When told that his team was ranked 12th in the West by ESPN’s Summer Forecast, Young got genuinely offended, as reported by Arash Markazi.

“We’re ranked 12th in the league?” [Young] said, slightly puzzled.

Well, not exactly, more like 12th in the West, right behind the New Orleans Pelicans to be exact.

“What? No! Out of teams in the West?” he said, now more upset than puzzled.

“That’s very disappointing,” Young said. “I’m upset just hearing that right now. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens this season. We’re going to be ranked higher than that by the end of the season.”

Although his three-point percentage was just over 35 percent last season, make no mistake about it—Young can shoot the lights out with one of the smoothest jumpers in the game.

According to Synergy Sports, L.A.’s new wingman connected on a whopping 60 percent of his attempts from downtown last season while in isolation. And even more exciting for the Lakers—specifically for D’Antoni, who’d squeal with joy upon seeing this stat—Young hit 50 percent of his threes as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations.

In 2013, Swaggy P will finally be handed the big stage that he’s been craving and pining for throughout his whole career.

And the Lakers couldn’t be happier about it.