As the Los Angeles Lakers begin considering their options for the future, the team must bring back small forward Nick Young to help as the franchise tries to rebuild into a championship contender.
Mark Bartelstein, Young's agent, confirmed that the 29-year-old will not pick up his player option and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin. According to Spotrac, Young would have made just $1.2 million had he stayed on his new deal, and considering what he did last season, it just wasn't realistic for Young to stay with the Lakers on such a cheap deal.
During a season where the Lakers went just 27-55 to finish dead last in the Pacific Division, Young was one of the few bright spots. While starting in just nine games, Young averaged 17.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while shooting 43.5 percent from the floor.
As the season went on, Young continued to get better and better. As Craig Sager Jr. points out, he averaged an impressive 25.6 points per game during the final five games of the season.
With those kinds of numbers, Young could test the market and get a big payday, but he's expressed before that he would like to stay in Los Angeles.
"I always wanted to be a Laker and it will be a dream come true to still be here, but it's crazy," Young said back in April, according to McMenamin. "You never know what happens. Last year they had a whole different team. It's obvious they're going to make some changes."
In a report back in late May, Lang Greene from Basketball Insiders wrote that Young would prefer to stay, even with the still-vacant coaching position and a wide-open roster.
The good news for Swaggy P is that he knows the Lakers can afford to re-sign him. According to HoopsHype.com, the Lakers have just $35.3 million in payroll for next season, giving them plenty of cap room. That cap space could get even bigger, however, as ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting that the Lakers may be trying to trade Steve Nash, who is set to make $9.7 million next year, along with the No. 7 overall pick.
Even with Kobe Bryant returning next season, the Lakers could use another scoring option on the wing. Young put up solid numbers, but he's not going to have a superstar contract. Instead, he'd likely be willing to take a slight pay cut to stay in Los Angeles while still making much more than he was originally supposed to make had he not opted out of his previous contract.
With so much cap space, there's also a chance that the Lakers bring in either Carmelo Anthony or even LeBron James, but the odds of that are slim, and it's not realistic to plan the future of your franchise on the hopes that you can convince a superstar to sign. The good news is that if they were somehow able to sign either of them, they would then have three talented scorers on the wings.
Free agency is never a sure thing, but with Young's desire to come back to Los Angeles and the fact that the Lakers desperately need to add some talent to their roster, the front office must find a way to bring back Swaggy P.