Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Nick Young During 2014 Offseason
On Tuesday, word broke that one of the NBA’s most recognizable icons—a player whose skills and style have helped shape an entire basketball generation—had officially opted out of his contract.
That’s right, folks: Nick “Swaggy P” Young is officially a free agent, according to ESPN.
Where Young decides to take his talents could completely change the balance of power in the…
Okay, that joke’s run its course.
And while InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina reports Young could be willing to give the Lakers a “hometown discount,” it’s certainly worth examining what other options might be on the table for the effervescent shooting guard.
Based on potential fit, fortune and off-court fame, we’ve compiled a list of 10 teams on which we could see Swaggy fitting in.
For our purposes, we’re assuming Young fetches somewhere in the neighborhood of three years, $15 million, although these numbers may be altered if the franchise fit warrants as much.
All team financial information courtesy of ShamSports.com.
If there’s one team whose constant weakness is at the shooting guard position—even with all-world defender Tony Allen in the fold—it’s the Memphis Grizzlies.
With both the mini mid-level ($2 million) and mid-level ($4.6 million) to spend, the Grizzlies could be an attractive destination for Young—even if the city isn’t exactly his cup of tea.
Young would have some work to do buying into the Grizzlies’ brand of bully-ball defense. Still, for a team perennially lacking in perimeter shooting, Young—a career 38 percent three-point shooter—would provide some much-needed firepower.
The Detroit Pistons are another team that could use Young’s perimeter scoring.
Indeed, even if Kentavius Caldwell-Pope proves to be Detroit’s shooting guard of the future, having a proven veteran scorer like Young would doubtless bode well for a team that finished second-to-last in the NBA in three-point shooting last season, per NBA.com.
Depending on where dynamic combo guard Rodney Stuckey ends up signing, the Pistons could be in even more desperate need for a scoring punch.
Here's Detroit Bad Boys' Sean Corp:
Stan Van Gundy has a lot of work to do this offseason to remake his Pistons roster in a way that matches his style of play. And while Van Gundy has always matched his schemes to his talent, he has already gone on record and said that the team will look to add perimeter shooting in the offseason.
It is the Pistons' most glaring offensive weakness and Van Gundy has always prioritized the value of the 3-pointer in both his previous coaching stints in Miami and especially Orlando. But Van Gundy was dealt his first major blow as a part of the Pistons organization as Detroit lost its pick No. 9 pick to the Charlotte Hornets as part of the Ben Gordon trade of two years ago.
While a backcourt of Young and Brandon Jennings would certainly incite the ire of the advanced stats community, it would certainly play into team president Stan Van Gundy’s plans to build around second-year phenom Andre Drummond in a manner not unlike Van Gundy’s Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic teams of a few years ago.
As of this writing, the Phoenix Suns stand to have close to $30 million in cap space heading into free agency.
Not bad for a team that won 48 games and very nearly made the playoffs in a historically stacked Western Conference.
The Suns have the means to pay Young—that much is clear. The question is whether his game would too closely mimic that of Gerald Green, who is fresh off a renaissance year that saw him land in the conversation for Most Improved Player.
Depending on whether the Suns decide to match the offer that’s inevitably on the way for third-year wrecking ball Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek could be in need of some serious help off the bench—particularly on the perimeter.
Bonus: Phoenix is just a short flight from Young’s native L.A.
A young, up-and-coming team with plenty of cap room to spare? Swaggy need look no further than the plucky Charlotte Hornets.
Just two years after posting the worst record (7-59) in NBA history, the then-Bobcats scrapped and scrambled their way to an unlikely playoff appearance (the franchise’s second) under first-year head coach Steve Clifford.
Gerald Henderson has done an admirable job for the Hornets manning the 2 in recent seasons, making Young’s seamless usurpation of the role a precarious proposition at best.
Still, both Young and Henderson have Sixth Man of the Year potential; even if one of them comes off the bench, the workload stands to be heavy.
Could Clifford get Young to buy into Charlotte’s helter-skelter defensive scheme, dependent as it is on wreaking perimeter havoc? It’s difficult to say. But if Young is looking for a good payday on a potential-laden team, the Hornets make for a fine fit, indeed.
As an off-the-bench scorer (Monta Ellis ain’t giving up his starting slot), Young would be a more offensively versatile weapon than Vince Carter, whose own $3 million deal is set to expire.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Dallas owner Mark Cuban plans on meeting with both Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol in the coming days. As such, it’s safe to assume the Mavs aren’t so much rebuilding as reloading—or trying to, anyway.
If Dallas somehow loses out on its free-agent plays (Nowitzki included), it seems unlikely Cuban would be willing to give Young big-time money. But as a $4 million-a-year sixth man for a team that plans on being right back in the postseason hunt? Why not?
The truth is [Kyrie’s] camp has been putting out there for years – years – that he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland. That they don’t want him in Cleveland. He doesn’t like Mike Brown. He didn’t like Chris Grant. He doesn’t like Dion Waiters. He’s already gotten a General Manager fired.
Couple that with Fox Sports' Sam Amico's report that Waiters believes either his or Irving’s Cleveland days are numbered, there’s only one thing to conclude: If Cleveland is going to deal anyone, it’s going to be Waiters.
The Cavs stand to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million in cap space—more than enough to give Young something resembling an attractive deal.
Still, it’s unclear just how far along in the rebuilding process Cleveland sees itself being. That’s not to say Young amounts to anything resembling a “final piece”—far from it. But as a transitional player capable of giving the Cavs some scoring punch and perimeter depth, he may be just the short-term ticket.
Fact: The Philadelphia 76ers finished the 2013-14 season with the second worst record in the NBA and could be in rebuild mode for the better part of the next decade.
Fact: That doesn’t make it a bad fit for Nick Young.
The Sixers have more positional holes than you can shake a stick at, but perhaps their most pressing concern is who to stick alongside rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams in the backcourt.
With two first-round picks in this year’s draft, it seems likely Philly will look to target their 2-guard of the future. But as a stopgap option at a reasonable price—or even as a sixth man—Young could be an interesting play—even if Jason Richardson decides to exercise his $6 million player option.
One could easily make the argument that shoehorning Swaggy into such a young roster risks propagating bad habits. But if head coach—and Gregg Popovich understudy—Brett Brown proved anything in his first year, it’s that his basketball acumen is matched only by his refusal to take any guff.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder, while capped out, do boast both mid-level exceptions. Whether they’re willing to spend either on a one-dimensional player like Young is a different question altogether.
Rotationally speaking, the Thunder could well be in need of some backcourt help, why with Thabo Sefolosha’s deal poised to come off the books and Jeremy Lamb still very much an unproven product.
Young may not be the permanent answer at the 2, but he’d provide quite the bench punch for a team that finished 22nd in the league in that department, per HoopsStats.com.
James, of course, has already opted out of the final year of his deal, per USA Today’s Sam Amick.
If each of the Big Three choose to take their talents elsewhere, Miami will have boatloads of cap space to spend. Young would be joining a team destined for the lottery, of course, but the fringe benefits of being in Miami would certainly be up Swaggy’s alley.
Alternatively, should James, Wade and Bosh all re-sign, the Heat will still have a $3.2 million mid-level exception to spend. Whether they’d be willing to throw it at a player like Young—a guy who doesn’t exactly scream championship pedigree—seems, at best, unlikely.
Still, it’s not hard to envision the Big Three taking Young under their collective wing and helping him develop into a more reliable, consistent all-around player.
Los Angeles Lakers
Here’s what Young had to say about returning to L.A. during his interview with InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina:
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.
Swaggy may take stupid shots, but he isn’t dumb; he knows the Lakers essentially have a license to print money.
The question isn’t whether L.A. can afford Young. Of course they can. The question is whether he’s a realistic part of the Lakers’ long-term plans.
At 28 years old, Young has yet to receive the kind of career payday of many of his peers. And it’s totally understandable for him to be seeking it.
Barring a catastrophic setback, Kobe Bryant will return as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard next season. That means Young will be, at best, the team’s sixth man—a role with which he’s certainly familiar.
Young played the good soldier this past season, no doubt about it. But the NBA is, after all, a business, and it’s hard to imagine a team as lauded and legacy-oriented as the Lakers getting overly sentimental about a flawed gunner who just so happens to be from Southern California.
Still, depending on how L.A. fares in the draft and in free agency, a three-year, discounted deal for Young might not be a very big long-term hindrance.