The Los Angeles Lakers will have plenty of questions to answer once their injury-riddled 2013-14 season mercifully comes to an end. One of those quandaries is whether they’ll decide to re-sign Nick Young.
According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said, “Nick wants to be a Laker, but his focus right now is to get healthy, get back on the court and finish the rest of the season. That’s a conversation (general manager Mitch Kupchak) and I will have, but it’s too early at this point to talk about what he’s going to do to.”
Young suffered a bone bruise and a non-displaced fracture of the patella in his left knee on Feb. 5 against the Cleveland Cavaliers that forced him to miss six games. He returned to action on Feb. 23 against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 10 points in 20 minutes during the 108-102 loss.
The 28-year-old shooting guard wants to stay in Lakerland, but the front office must first assess his value moving forward. He does have a player option worth approximately $1.2 million for the 2014-15 season, but the odds he exercises it seem slim.
After crediting the sharpshooting guard for having a “great year,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak added, “My guess is he’s going to opt out," per Medina.
Young has likely raised his free-agent stock in the eyes of opposing GMs by averaging 16.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game for LA. It’s logical to believe he could get a far more lucrative deal on the open market when compared to his $1.2 million player option, so opting out is his best course of action from a financial perspective.
The question now is if the Lakers feel Young is worth competing in a bidding war. He’s certainly a one-dimensional NBA player, with scoring as his best attribute, but there are other reasons for LA to keep “Swaggy P.”
Despite the fact that the Lakers’ 2013-14 campaign has been a nightmare, the bench has improved dramatically compared to a season ago.
|Los Angeles Lakers Bench Stats By Year|
|2012-13:||25.8 PPG||12.0 RPG||5.0 APG||1.7 SPG|
|2013-14:||41.1 PPG||16.5 RPG||6.9 APG||2.6 SPG|
In 2012-13, the Lakers’ second unit ranked 28th by scoring 25.8 points per game, according to Hoops Stats. So far this season, the bench is posting 41.1 points per contest—ranking it second in the league behind that of the San Antonio Spurs.
Young’s 16.8 points-per-game average off the sidelines has been a major reason for the second unit’s 180-degree turnaround.
The former USC standout has brought plenty of firepower to a team that didn’t have many difference-makers off the bench a year ago. Due to Young’s ability to create his own shot, head coach Mike D’Antoni can confidently rest the starters knowing that he doesn’t give up much offense.
Lamar Odom was an integral part of the Lakers’ success for many years, winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2011. He thrived while coming off the bench for LA, and while Young doesn’t bring the rebounding or playmaking skills that L.O. did, he provides rest for the starters by scoring in bunches as a super-sub.
If there’s one thing the aging Lakers need moving forward, it’s injury insurance.
After tearing his Achilles last April, Kobe Bryant returned to play in just six games before a fractured lateral tibial plateau shelved him once again. The latter injury prompted Laker legend Magic Johnson and TNT analyst Charles Barkley to suggest that “The Black Mamba” should shut it down and focus on returning in 2014-15.
Although Bryant said his plan to return, “hasn’t changed,” per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, he still hasn’t returned as we inch closer to March.
The 35-year-old future Hall of Famer is no longer the player he once was, if only because he can’t stay healthy enough to play. We’ve seen nothing to suggest he can return to an All-Star level, so keeping a safety net on hand who can slide into the starting role when necessary is a smart plan of action for Kupchak and Co.
Locker Room Presence
Although Swaggy P has garnered a bit of a reputation for being a loose cannon by attempting ludicrous circus shots:
And for losing his cool when his teammates were already shorthanded:
He’s earned praise from Coach D’Antoni for his upbeat attitude.
“When we have shootaround and the energy’s down, he’s ‘swaggy’ out there and he feels it and he starts ‘swaggin’ or something, and he starts going and he gets everybody’s energy up,” D’Antoni said. “And it’s not silly energy, and sometimes you have that, it’s a good positive fun.”
During a punishing 82-game schedule filled with travel plans, practices and back-to-back game nights, having guys in the locker room to lighten the mood does wonders for a team's overall morale.
According to D’Antoni, Young’s energy has lifted up the entire roster during the 2013-14 season—that hasn't led to many wins, but still.
Young certainly is no stranger to fooling around and trying to make people laugh, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a professional on the hard wood.
If he stays within a reasonable price range, Kupchak should undoubtedly try and retain the 28-year-old for his bench scoring, injury insurance behind aging veterans, locker room presence and, of course, his “swag.”