What's the Perfect Price for Nick Young and LA Lakers to Stay Together?

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers' Nick Young is seen during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Lakers beat the 76ers 112-98. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Michael Perez/Associated Press

Nick Young says he wants to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers, but at what price? The question has stymied fans of the Purple and Gold for the past several weeks.

There may finally be an answer—sort of. According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Young considers the Lakers to be his “first choice” and also seems willing to accept some type of hometown discount:

It depends how much the discount is. But as a player, everyone wants a place they feel comfortable at. I feel comfortable in L.A. But I can’t keep taking these discounts. I need a raise a little bit. But if it’s for the right cost and they’re bringing in players and I fit into the rotation, then I’ll probably take a pay cut.

A pay cut from what? Young is planning on opting out of his player’s option of $1,227,985 when free agency officially starts in order to seek more money, not less. Does he mean a cut from a previous salary or simply a lesser amount that he feels he deserves?

And just exactly how does his agent, Mark Bartelstein, feel about negotiating downward through the media, before the process even begins?

When not undercutting his representation’s position, Young has been having a perfectly lovely summer vacation—hanging out in Cabo, Mexico, and celebrating the birthday of girlfriend Iggy Azalea. His next stop, according to Medina, will be London, where “Swaggy P” will try his hand at modeling in a fashion show. 

Young was one of the few bright spots in a miserable Lakers season, coming off the bench as a sixth man and lighting up the scoreboard. And while not exactly known for being a lockdown stopper on the other end of the court, he at least showed a willingness that has sometimes gone missing over a career defined by minimalist defending and maximalist scoring.

NBA free agency is just like any other free-market enterprise. It’s the job of players’ agents to get their clients as much money as possible. After all, agents work on commission. Getting said money is a more difficult task under the recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which imposes strict salary cap limits and accompanying tax penalties on all NBA teams.

The gap has widened—mid-level deals are less common as teams apportion the majority of their budgets to top stars and then load up on minimum-salary deals. And if there is any doubt about the polarization of classes, look at ShamSport’s salary pages for the Lakers and other teams.

Young isn’t in line to seek the kind of megabucks that Kobe Bryant earns. Plus, the team needs to save money in order to pursue superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony. Regardless, Bartelstein’s job is to try to push into that shrinking middle-class territory, as much as he can.

It’s the difficult task of trying to recapture elusive lost ground—Young’s prior salary before coming to Los Angeles was $5.6 million with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Also per Medina, Young feels he deserves a longer contract, which could also be an issue. The Lakers have been cutting as many short-term deals as possible in an effort to maintain greater cap flexibility moving forward as they endeavor to rebuild the team.

Young grew up in Los Angeles, attending Cleveland High and USC. He says he wants to remain a Laker and is no doubt being sincere—the local fans embraced him this past season and he responded in kind, celebrating with effervescent cheer after each basket.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after making a three point basket against the Miami Heat at Staples Center on December 25, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat won 101-95.  NOTE TO USER: User express
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

And in fact, it’s not simply showboating—Young had a career year with the Lakers, averaging 17.9 points per game coming off the bench.

But this is his livelihood after all and he did take a major salary cut coming to the Lakers last season. Young is 29 years old now and this summer’s free agency will be a rare opportunity to make up lost ground and secure financial security for himself, his family and his future.

Other teams will show interest and Young’s agent will use that to leverage the Lakers. And while Swaggy P may say he’ll take a hometown discount, it really becomes a matter of degrees—especially if there are other offers coming in.

For Young, the perfect price would probably be in the $5 million to $7 million range—an amount that wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows at all just a few years ago. For the Lakers’ front office, the perfect number is less than that as they try to reconstruct a team in the wake of their worst loss record in franchise history.

Can both sides fine common ground? And how many millions should Young be willing to forfeit to remain in Los Angeles?

We’ll find out this summer.