I started the season more optimistic than most about Nick Young, by which I mean I was thinking, if he biffs it this year, he's gone. I wanted to believe in him, but I was done making excuses and needed to see results on the floor. We're down on Flip quite a bit, and I won't always defend him, but he seems to be part of the factors that came together for Young.
Okay, it took Flip too long to figure out how far Young was progressing, and left a rhythm shooter out of games for inexplicable stretches. We're rebuilding, Flip's experimenting with the lineup, and this post isn't about him. Taking the leash off Nick's shooting in exchange for defensive intensity has been the lone unblemished bright spot this season.
His streaky reputation had me holding out, but his uneven performances are becoming more and more consistent in one of the ways I hoped for, but was beginning to believe I would never see. Opposing coaches are reacting, defenses are making adjustments, and that means NBA GMs are taking notice. I know several of us were bullish on Rudy Fernandez...I didn't like the thought of a one-for-one then, and don't like it now. The last thing I want is an unmotivated, sulking talent. Maybe he only needs the right players around him to realize his potential, but the guys that have come on board since Ted took over are high character workers (yes, I'm including Josh Howard), and I don't see the Portland offer happening twice.
Ted's team building philosophy revolves around drafting and developing young talent. Some might argue the test case was Andray Blatche and his subsequent signing, but a worthwhile question is whether or not Blatche's recent performance will cool Leonsis' trigger finger in the near future. I'm sure the man has more patience, and I find it difficult to believe he would sell low.
It's inconceivable that we let Sushi walk in FA without an offer, while trade rumors surround him (as with any up and coming young player in the final season of a rookie contract), it's still unlikely Ted would authorize any move that didn't significantly upgrade the team, and I just don't see anyone breaking their backs to get a deal done for full value. All of this begs the question: pending his performance throughout the rest of the season, just what is Nick Young worth?
So being that we’re the team most likely to value him highest, it’s time, for the sake of argument and the post, to throw out a base number and work upward from there as we establish a few criteria for growth before it’s contract time. While many of us likely feel a contract for Young, if he sustains his current play, starts above the MLE (or whatever passes for that post-CBA negotiations), I’m betting if he regresses worst case is a contract like the one Phoenix gave Hakim Warrick at 16 million over 4 years. But there’s little chance I make that bet…although I did bet a c-note on the Wiz making it to .500 or the playoffs this year…whoops. My thought process there was not so logical…if I bet on them, they have to do better, right? Moving on.
I figure good money on Young’s growth this season will come in the form of consistency. He’s had his off nights this year, but as Prada has illustrated previously, as long as he isn’t trying to cross up Kobe, he’s on more than he’s off, and while he may not be able to keep shooting lights out (his TS% is still riding around 55%), he’s still been very effective. When I talk about Young sustaining his production, I mean Prada’s more realistic projection rather than the blistering pace he’s been on.
There are some criteria that Young has flirted with and would merit a serious bump in pay grade. I’ll list the ones I’m keeping an eye out for, but please put up anything you believe I’ve overlooked.
- Young sustains his shooting, defensive effort, and low turnover rate.
- Nick had eleven free throws last night. That’s happened twice before. Twice. One game isn’t a trend, especially with our boy. We’ve seen a willingness from him to draw contact, and if that represents a commitment getting to the rim and the line, his price goes up.
- We see a commitment to cleaning the defensive glass, a la Jason Richardson. Before you laugh, and I chuckled writing that, I believe that as he has become more confident in his offensive game, he will seek to expand his repertoire. With his defensive effort ratcheting up, I don’t think a focus on rebounding is out of the question.
- As defenses adjust, I’ll be watching to see how he handles pressure. If he’s able to pass out when defenses collapse on him, and maybe generate an assist or two (holding breath!), it’s one more mark in his favor.
I wanted to open water cooler discussion on this before the trade deadline conversation really gets going. The Nets kicked things off earlier than usual, and with Charlotte making noise it's worth a possibly premature look.