At a certain point during the debate over Nick Young, I started to feel like Will Ferrell’s character in Zoolander. I must be on crazy pills when messages saying Nick Young deserve a max midlevel exception (a 5 years between 25 and 30 million) are not signed by somebody named: “Not Nick Young, really,” “Yick Nong” or “Mama Young.” I don’t dislike Nick Young. He produces far fewer thrown remotes than McGee and Yi. He seems to be a really likeable guy in interviews. He also seems to engender a great deal of loyalty, as illustrated by Gilbert Arenas’s fake injury fiasco. However, I do not think his play has warranted a five year commitment. He’s not an ideal starter, and I’d prefer Jordan Crawford over Nick Young for coming off the bench, given his relatively inexpensive rookie contract and his overall upside. A 3-year deal in the range of 3-4 million per year would be fair. If he’s offered more than that, the Wizards should engage in a sign and trade or let him walk.
So far most of the arguments in favor of a large contract for Nick Young have actually made me even more skeptical of doing so. The one that boggles my mind the most is the “Nick Young has radically changed his game” claim. From what? An imitation of HOFer Chucky McCantDribble? Despite having a great shouting touch, Nick Young was a poor dribbling slasher with terrible court vision and anemic defense when he came into this league. If Nick Young had been an effective slasher, I could understand applauding him for transitioning into catch-and-shoot player. He wasn’t. Completely transforming his game was necessary for him to compete in the NBA. Since this transformation took four years, I’m skeptical about how much more growth will occur. Nick has never developed the dribbling skills to run an offense or the strength to play the three. Since Nick Young is in a contract year, I believe we’re witnessing his maximum effort. I’m not sure his game will radically improve, due either to his limited court vision or post-contract Tim Thomas-like effort. (I’d like to be wrong about the latter, but my gut says otherwise).
Second, in the four years, Nick Young has been a Wizard, they’ve averaged roughly 28 wins a season. Is the lack of winning entirely Nick Young’s fault? Of course not; that’s absurd. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Wizard’s failures over the last year. However, at the end of the day, if a player is worth keeping it should show up somehow in the wins column. If a team is losing, I want to see it eat the player up a bit. The latest quotes from John Wall shows the agony of losing for a guy who wants to win. Frankly, I’ve never seen that attitude in Nick Young, and therefore, paying him 30 million dollars seems absurd.
Third, the salary cap implications of a max midlevel deal for Nick Young deter making it. Recognizing that a new CBA could make these arguments moot, there are two reasons I believe signing Nick to a 30 million dollar contract would be contrary to our long term cap goals. First, we’re already committed to paying Andray Blatche. The idea of paying 12 million a year to Nick Young and Andray Blatche for the next five year is unsettling. What kind of culture will develop when the Wizards are financially obligated to play them both significant minutes? Young and Blatche have struggled with consistently. Both appear to have questionable motors. I would rather take a chance Nick Young blows up somewhere else than lock our team into those two players. Second, McGee’s upcoming free agency warrants maintaining maximum cap space. While McGee has driven everybody nuts with his inconsistencies, there are not a lot of players with his physical tools. Tall doesn’t grow on trees.
Fourth, Nick Young’s PER has never been above the NBA average. Even during a contract year, his performance was lacking. While I understand that his TS% has been pretty good, he’s still a below average player using the most widespread metric.
For all these reasons, a 3-year contract worth roughly 9-12 million would be appropriate. A 3-year deal would keep Nick through most of his prime, would prevent complacency, and create a tradable asset.