Nick Young wasn’t supposed to be on the Lakers at the start of the 2016-17 NBA season.
After a few years of sub-par play and silly antics, Young was labeled a distraction by many around the league. Following a media blown fallout with prized rookie D’Angelo Russell, the USC standout lost more than the support of Lakers’ management.
Young was surrounded by trade rumors for the entirety of last season. With top prospects in Russell and Jordan Clarkson, he was written off as Los Angeles had the future in mind.
After having the least productive season of his NBA career last year in which he averaged only 7.3 points per game, Young fell out of the rotation and many didn’t expect him to fit with newly minted head coach Luke Walton.
As the Lakers offseason began it became known that Los Angeles was heavily shopping the self-proclaimed ‘Swaggy P’.
News leaked that if the Lakers couldn’t find a bidder for Young (they couldn’t) they would waive him by the start of the season, going all in on their youth movement.
This is why it was so surprising to see Young start in the Lakers recent 123-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Young has played extremely well this preseason, and has truly been the most consistent Lakers player.
In seven games Swaggy P has averaged over 13 points while shooting 54.9% from the field and making 54.3% of his three-pointers in just over 20 minutes of action.
Not only is he shooting the lights out, but he is avoiding the questionable shots he became so well known for over the last several years.
Young actually boasts a staggering 73 percent true-shooting percentage during the preseason.
To put that into perspective, reigning 2 time MVP Steph Curry had a league best true-shooting percentage of 65.8 percent last season. While this offensive surge is certainly a welcome sight for the easy going Young, his defensive intensity has been an even bigger surprise.
Young has been a lock-down defender for the Lakers this preseason, using his elite size (6’7’’), athleticism and veteran savvy to become an unwavering defensive presence. He knows that if he doesn’t deliver on both ends he won’t see the court, plain and simple.
“I came in here prepared with the mindset going out there whatever happens, happens. Leave it all out there. I know that’s [defense] what keeps me out there. [I] try my hardest to do what I gotta do out there, really,” said Young.
The nine-year veteran has not only earned himself a spot in the rotation, but he is giving the Lakers coaching staff something to think about. Walton has been extremely impressed with Young this off-season, and even claimed he has been the Lakers best player thus far.
“He’s playing as well as anyone on our team, if not the best on our team honestly… He was messing with Kevin Durant tonight. That’s not easy,” said Walton after Young scored 19 points and hit 5 three-pointers in his start against Golden State.
Young has never been known as a trouble maker, and those around him have nothing but positive things to say about his locker room presence. This is another area where the happy-go-lucky LA native has worked to patch things up after last year’s scandal.
While newcomer Loul Deng has been named the starter at small forward, Young is now expected to scrap with rookie Brandon Ingram for a bulk of the remaining minutes.
It’s no secret Young wants to remain with the purple and gold. A Los Angeles native, he loves being a Laker, and perhaps last summer was the wake-up call he needed.
If Young can continue to show his maturity and provide the Lakers with some much needed defensive intensity, he could very well have a career season under Walton and his free flowing offense.