When Nick Young signed with the Los Angeles Lakers prior to last season, I had modest expectations. I expected him to be a streaky shooter, take some pressure off of Kobe Bryant, and be a solid sixth man.
What actually transpired was far beyond that. Part of what happened was due to endless injuries for the Lakers, but nonetheless, Swaggy P emerged and became a star for the Lakers.
Swaggy P was goofy off the court, but his game was serious when he stepped between the baselines.
As the Lakers’ sixth man, Young actually led the Lakers in scoring with 17.9 points.
Obviously, the Lakers struggled mightily last season, but with Swaggy given free reign to score, he certainly delivered.
As mentioned, he averaged 17.9 points (his highest scoring average), but also held a PER of 16.0, which was also his highest since entering the league in 2007. Another career-high for Swaggy was his eFG% which was at 51.1 percent.
Not only that, but when Young came to the Lakers, he wanted to live up to his potential of being a star in this league — as his stock had fallen since his departure from Washington in 2012 — and he did.
He showed leadership. He contributed to his team every night. He led by example. And the charisma he displayed off the court translated to production on the court.
He became a fan favorite with his celebrations on the court being as popular as his quotes to the media.
All of that and most of his contributions came from off the bench.
That may change next season, however.
Last season, despite numerous injuries, the Lakers were able to have Young come off the bench for 55 of the 64 games he played.
In the nine games he started, he didn’t quite put up the same numbers as he did off the bench, as he averaged just 12.3 points — although he did have an eFG% of 68.5.
As the Lakers’ roster stands right now, Nick Young is arguably their second-best player behind Kobe Bryant.
He’s also one of the few players on the roster in his prime.
With Kobe Bryant getting older and coming off two serious injuries, Young is going to be asked to supplement some of what Kobe normally does, but probably won’t be able to do for 48 minutes every night. With the Lakers losing out on Carmelo Anthony in free agency and Pau Gasol leaving, Nick Young might be the guy asked to take on more responsibility and possibly even start ballgames.
With Steve Nash’s health in question, Young has the opportunity to become a leader on the team as well.
Regardless of whether he starts or not, he’ll likely be asked to carry the scoring load and play more significant minutes compared to the 28.3 he averaged last season.
That shouldn’t be a problem.
However, Young will likely be matched up with and have to guard some of the tougher scorers in the league.
Similarly, we know he can get his shot off, but will he be able to make the correct passes and set up guys like Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill off of pick-and-rolls and paint penetration?
Young averaged just 1.5 assists last season, and has never been known as a top defender.
At age 29, is he likely to drastically improve his overall game? Probably not, but there’s always room for improvement, especially when the pressure to deliver mounts higher and higher each night under the Hollywood lights.
Last season, there were limited expectations on Young coming into the season. However, he showed some of what he’s capable of and raised the bar and expectations for himself.
Next season, he’ll be depended upon to deliver every night, and will also be playing alongside Kobe Bryant, who we all know demands a lot from his teammates (Bryant only played six games last season).
At age 29, Young is coming off of his best season and is primed to build on that with an even bigger season in the biggest of markets. He even took less money once again to remain with the Lakers, which proves he truly does bleed purple and gold and is not only up for the challenge of the pressure, he’s embracing it.
If last year is any indication of how he’ll respond, I think Swaggy P will be just fine.
The Lakers certainly need him to be a star next season, and Nick Young has the opportunity to be just that.
Lakers Re-Sign Nick Swaggy P Young And Jordan Hill