Swaggy P signed a two-year contract with Los Angeles over the summer—with a player option for 2014-15—worth just over $1.1 million this season. Less than halfway through 2013-14, he's left his mark on the Lakers organization, exceeding expectations as a fun-loving scorer who bleeds purple and gold.
Young has been so impressive that Kupchak, who's been evasive about Los Angeles' current and future direction, told Lakers.com's Mike Trudell he hopes the shooting guard has a Hollywood-based future:
Going forward, there are a number of things to determine. Who knows. Money is important to Nick as to all players, but you can watch him play and he just loves to play. Some guys treat it as a job, but Nick loves to play. He has fun and basketball is a big part of who it is. Whatever he decides to do with his opt out … we'd certainly like to see him be a Laker for a long time.
No surprises here.
Not only has Young been loyal, he's playing out of his mind, averaging a team-leading 16.3 points per game. Players earning barely $1 million don't normally have that kind offensive output, rendering Young one of free agency's biggest steals.
But while the Lakers are pleased with his performance, his future with the organization is uncertain.
Young can exercise his player option this summer and ensure he returns for another season, but he would be accepting well below his market value once again. If his current production levels hold, plenty of teams will be willing to award him with a contract that pays him more than the $1.2 million he's projected to earn in Los Angeles next season.
The Lakers can always re-sign him themselves, but they will likely be hesitant to offer him a long-term contract that compromises their financial flexibility for this offseason and summer 2015.
For Young, it will be difficult to justify returning at a steep discount, especially when other offers are rolling in, like Kupchak told Trudell they were this past summer:
But I would credit his agent (Mark Bartelstein). I'm almost positive Nick had more lucrative offers. But what the agent did was look around the league for the spot he thought the kid could have a good year. Playing time, style of play, etc. … sometimes it can be a negative going back to your hometown, but he'd been through that with the Clippers. The agent, whom I spoke to for a long time about this, had to get to that place. Nick wanted to be here, and understandably, players and agents need to look at the dollars. There were more lucrative offers, but our roster provided ample playing time and the style of play fit, and Nick and his family bought into it.
The time for Young, who is going on 29, to cash in on his improvement and current play is now, not later. Unless the Lakers are prepared to make a competitive offer to retain his services, his return is, at best, up in the air.
What will become of Nick Young with the Lakers?
"He rubs off on me and makes me happy, I know that," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin.
During a season marred by injuries, ambiguity and more injuries, Young, one of the team's few bright spots, has made all of Los Angeles happy. Brought a euphoric attitude to a struggling franchise in transition.
Injected much-needed swagger into a Lakers organization down on their luck.
All that's left to see is whether Young's tenure in Los Angeles has an expiration date.
*Salary information courtesy of ShamSports.