Warriors Give Nick Young Chance to Reinvent Himself While Still Being 'Swaggy P'

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 4: Nick Young #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors on November 4, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Nick Young is following JaVale McGee's path toward redemption—and potentially, if inevitably, an NBA title.

The powder-keg chucker has agreed to join the reigning champion Golden State Warriors on a one-year deal worth $5.2 million, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski. He left more money on the table with the Los Angeles Lakers by declining his $5.7 million player option, but Golden State's recruiting contingent can be quite persuasive:

This is a no-brainer move for Young when striking money from the record. He needs what the Dubs promise—a championship, yes, but also the validation and absolution that come with helping a genuine contender.

The basketball fit contributes to this pending cachet. Young is chasing a ring without being a full-fledged hanger-on. He spent 2016-17 playing under Golden State's former associate head coach, Luke Walton, who predominantly used him as an off-action fireball—a role similar to the gig he'll have now.

Almost half of all Young's field-goal attempts last season came off the catch, and he drilled a blistering 43.9 percent of his standstill triples. The 1.14 points he pumped in per spot-up possession placed in the 83rd percentile and are identical to the marks posted by Paul George and Gordon Hayward.

Stir that efficiency into Golden State's offense, and you get basketball nirvana. The Warriors are the league's most lethal catch-and-shoot squad, with a capacity to generate wide-open looks on command. Young averaged 5.8 uncontested attempts per 36 minutes with the Lakers, and that number will explode in his new digs.

Defensive concessions are unavoidable. This is Nick Young we're talking about. He's still kind of quick, and second-string wings shouldn't eat him alive. But last season, he forfeited the second-most points on the defensive end among Lakers players, according to NBA Math

Golden State can afford to make this gamble roughly 50 times over. Young won't play a ton of minutes, and it's hard to compromise the defensive integrity of a bench that boasts Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West

McGee reinvented himself with Golden State. Young has the chance to do the same.
McGee reinvented himself with Golden State. Young has the chance to do the same.Aaron Poole/Getty Images

Besides, everything and everyone looks better on the Warriors. And this, more than anything else, is what they promise Young: reclamation without reinvention.

McGee didn't remake himself as a player and person with Golden State. He sprinted up and down the court, finished lobs, protected the rim and, yes, committed plenty of errors. The narrative around him has shifted anyway—in part because he's been miscast as the NBA's foremost goofball but also because joining the Warriors, behind so much star power, freed him from having to be something he's not.

Midgame blunders don't get overanalyzed if you're playing on perhaps the best team ever. Your demeanor isn't anatomized when you're winning in excess. Bad shots, blown assignments and wacky, if ill-timed, celebrations aren't fodder for assaults on your character when there's no basis for connecting them to the team's place in the standings.

Young enters the Warriors culture under almost identical circumstances—the butt of jokes and inspiration of snark, revered as novelty and brand rather than player or person. He is someone to root for or laud when things are going well but not a name to defend when things take a turn for the joyless.

That isn't to say Young must be painted as an innocent observer erroneously typecast by the public at large. He's earned some of the smudges on his resume.

Former teammate D'Angelo Russell broke an unwritten rule when he secretly recorded Young, then engaged to Iggy Azalea, while prompting him to discuss his infidelities. But Young broke a more meaningful moral code, and sympathy for cheaters is (correctly) available in scant supply. A video of Gilbert Arenas yelling obscenities (NSFW) in front of Young's son also didn't portray Swaggy P—or Arenas—in the best light.

Emerging as a standout performer on the rebuilding Lakers didn't help overhaul his image—even though Walton was quick with praise.

"What I'm really proud of is that a lot of his shots are coming, or he's letting them come, in the flow of the game," Walton said in January, per Harrison Faigen of SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll. "Every once in a while he feels hot like all shooters do—they want to just get the ball off their hands and up—but his stuff's coming out of DHOs [dribble handoffs] and whatnot."

These sentiments aren't the first thing that spring to mind when mentioning Young's name. Most are inclined to think about his off-the dribble bricks:

Or the worst layup ever:

Or his celebration gone wrong:

It seems even reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant couldn't resist taking a potshot at Young—and, let's face it, the rest of us—when reacting to his contract:

Most of this stuff will blow over with Golden State—if it even happens. Young showed restraint in an at-times prominent role for the 26-win Lakers. He won't go off script and hijack possessions for the juggernaut Warriors. They aren't a team you join, at a discount, if you're not ready and willing to fit in wherever you can, whenever you can.

It helps even more that the Warriors aren't the San Antonio Spurs. Their culture isn't founded upon seriousness and stringency. It's more fluid and unfettered, which is right in line with Young's personality. And when it matters, they'll have his back. When it doesn't, they still come to his defense.

Just ask McGee. He has been effusive in his praise for the Warriors, and the way they flocked to his side during a quasi feud with Shaquille O'Neal.

"These guys are all about having fun," McGee told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher. "If something is funny, it's funny and that situation was hilarious, but the next day there was nothing said about it. That day? Oh, all the jokes. But after that it was over like it never happened."

It's hard to think of a better landing spot for Young, mostly because one doesn't exist. He isn't in danger of falling out of the NBA without the Warriors, as McGee was, but they're his ticket to being taken more seriously without making wholesale revisions to who he is.

This time next year, mentioning Nick Young's names may incite a different reaction.
This time next year, mentioning Nick Young's names may incite a different reaction.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

This isn't a feeble attempt to spin Young's arrival into something unnecessarily profound. He will be lucky to average 15 minutes per game or to be on the floor during crunch time of a playoff matchup. Maybe he hits some big shots. Maybe Draymond Green gets in his ear more often than not. Maybe this fit is seamless. Maybe it takes time.

The Warriors are equipped to handle any version of Young they get. They don't need him, but they can use him, and they'll accentuate his best while trivializing his worst and debunking what's false—a perfect situation for a wild card who, after last season, appears worthy of re-examination.  

Swaggy P is home.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA.com. Career earnings via Basketball Reference. Other salary information via Basketball Insiders and RealGM.