Player evaluation: Nick Young



Previously:

Stats: Per-game: 15.4 minutes, 7.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 0.5 steals

Per-36: 17.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.9 turnovers, 4 personal fouls

Percentages: 43.9 FG%, 40% 3PT%, 48.1 eFG%, 52.7 TS%

Advanced (explanations): 11.6 PER, 5.8 REB%, 9.6 AST%, 24.9 Usg%, 15 TOV%, 98 ORtg, 112 DRtg, -6 WSAA (Win Shares Above Average).

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Pradamaster: The knock on Nick Young coming out of college was that he couldn't do anything but score, and in his first season in the pros, he demonstrated that, Kobe comparisons aside, to a certain degree he couldn't do much else but score.  But even so, I'm actually pretty encouraged by Young's rookie year.

The reason?  The man got better as the season progressed.

We all know Young's a goofy and sensitive guy, both on and off the court.  Hell, Steinberg's accounts of Young not taking his rookie status seriously in the locker room could fill an entire book (As an aside, I'd pay tons of money to read about the 07-08 Wizards from Steinz's point of view).  On the court, we saw the head-hanging and the disengagement any time shots weren't falling.  Hell, we saw it from the very first summer league game he played:

Young shot only 3-11 from the field, but while he missed open shots I know he can make, he also demonstrated some of the concerns scouts had about him.  It seemed like he wasn't engaged unless he had the ball, as he struggled defensively and only grabbed one rebound.  I also noticed he hung his head a lot, and stopped taking the ball to the basket after a certain point.  I hope he isn't this easily rattled in the future. 

For the first half of the year, we saw these catch-and-shoot-22-type traits from Young.  He shot often, and he wasn't shooting well, hitting just 40 percent of his shots.  He struggled running the offense, and Eddie Jordan didn't make things any easier by playing him with an all-reserve unit that didn't have anyone else capable of creating his own shot.  His concentration was tied to his shooting ability.  When he was hitting shots, he was engaged in the other aspects of the game; when he wasn't, which was often because his shot selection was bad, he was totally out of it.  It wasn't a very encouraging start for him, and the strong start by New Jersey's Sean Williams just rubbed salt into the wound.

But at a certain point in mid-February, Young really turned his season around.  I'm not really sure when it was, to be honest.  Perhaps it was the locker room rearrangement, but that happened well before Young started to come around.  More likely, the change was subtle.  Perhaps it was tied to something that wasn't reported, but I got the sense that Young realized the responsibility needed to play in this league and started dedicating himself more fully.  The result was a splendid March where he scored over 10 points a game, hit over 50 percent of his shots and nailed 14 of 28 threes.  He ended the month by dropping 27 on the Western Conference champion Lakers, all while playing down the stretch with the starters. 

By the end of the year, I was disappointed that Eddie Jordan buried him for the playoff run.  I felt he had done enough to deserve the minutes.  He had such a great March, then suddenly found himself on the bench again.  To his credit, Young never complained, all while making it clear that he wanted to play and was willing to work hard to do so.  That's encouraging.

This offseason is a huge one for Young.  For all his late-season improvement, he still struggled in the non-scoring areas of the game.  I think his defense improved, but he still has a ways to go on that end before he's good enough to start.  He's become better at fitting into the offense, but he still struggles in that regard.  Most importantly, the man needs to learn how to finish at the rim (49% eFG% in close? That sucks), because otherwise, all we'll see are 15-foot fadeaways.  He can soar with the best of them, but he needs to learn how to take punishment and still score.

I'm confident, though, that Young will return as a far more deadly assassin next year.  At the very least, he deserves Roger Mason's minutes, and even if his upside is as a sixth-man Microwave-type player, that's alright with me.  We have DeShawn locked up for the next two years, so there's no real rush.

JakeTheSnake: I'm still standing behind my assertion that Nick Young can develop into a poor man's Kobe Bryant someday.  Without really looking into it, I suppose that would translate into Young becoming the next Eddie Jones, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing as long as he can avoid getting a huge contract that he can't live up to at some point down the road.

As for what he did this season, I came away impressed for the most part.  Given who was available at #16, I'd still say that Nick was right pick for us.  The defense still has a ways to go before it can get to the point where Eddie can put him out there for long stretches and not worry about the other team's backcourt going off on him, but there's lots of room for growth in that department.  He probably won't ever be more than average on that end, but it's not like he'd be the only one guilty of that on this team.

Other than that, he just needs to put more time into learning the offense.  There's a time and place for 1 on 1 and he'll get opportunities to use those skills, but when he learns that sticking to the offense will make it easier for him to effective most of the time, it will make him that much more explosive.

Truthaboutit: Some call Nick Young The City, but he'll always be the Bean Burrito to me......and to him I suppose since Nick gave himself that AKA. It seems like I got on the kid like a disappointed father many times this year....but in the end, just like dad, I gotta like him.

The Good: Nick Young has that mid-range step back J that can be NBA-dangerous, and he's very fluid in his motions. While his handles are nice, he seemed to rely on his cross-over as the first option too much. We know Young can slam it on some fools and some crybabies. (Sidebar: How about the guy saying "very athletic" at the end of the slam on LeBron YouTube? Sounds like who black comedians impersonate when they do their white guy voice.) While tied with Blatche for 8th on the team in average ppg, Nick was 4th among Wizards in points per 40 minutes. March was by far Young's best month (10.6 ppg, 2.1 reb, 51.9 fg%, 50% 3p%), so he clearly gained offensive confidence towards the end of the season.

The Bad: Nick Young is not very strong....but what would you expect from a lengthy rookie? Still, to take advantage of his mid-range game, he's going to have to learn to move better off the ball, and that requires strength to get separation. Nick never really showed the intensity to be a constant mover, a la Rip Hamilton. But maybe he is not that type of player (also the Reggie Miller mold).....So, if Young's not distracting the defense with movement, he's got to be creating for others, right? No, not really (just check Nick Young's assist rating (9.1), terrible). To be a player in this league, you can't just score buckets. As a guard, you also need the ability to get your teammates the ball, especially in Eddie Jordan's offense......else you'll just be another JR Rider or Harold Miner (yes, I realize a criminal and a recluse are horrible comparisons, and I am sorry for that).

The Ugly: Defense. Now, I must admit that if there is any aspect of Nick Young's game that noticeably improved the most towards the end of the season, it would be his intensity on defense. Still, increased intensity doesn't make the overall defensive progression major.....the Burrito has a long, long way to go. He just fouls so damn much (not as much as Andray Blatche though).....team fouls are +6 when Young is on the court, and opponent FT attempts are +7. Maybe it's that building strength thing, but I still anticipate future frustrations with Nick's Lock-Smith-ability.

The Future? Kid better be working hard in LA. He scored 41 points in 62 minutes in 2 games against the Lakers this year......I sure hope he's studying the complete game of Kobe Bryant during these 2008 NBA Playoffs.

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