Lakers player review: Nick Young

May, 29, 2014
May 29
10:00
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Pau Gasol and Nick YoungJohn E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SportsNick Young hit the 40-point plateau twice and scored 20 or more in seven out of nine games during a stretch in December.

Nick Young

2013-14 salary: $1,106,942 | Age: 28 | Season stats: 17.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG

Season recap: The Lakers had their eye on the former USC Trojan for years and finally got him to L.A. last season. It was worth the wait. Young led the team in scoring and made fans remember the days when Kobe Bryant was younger, with his athleticism and ability to create his own shot in just about any situation. Unfortunately, with Bryant out for most of the season because of multiple left leg injuries, fans had to settle for seeing Young playing the proxy rather than seeing the two dynamic guards team up together.

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Season highlight: Young hit the 40-point plateau twice, dropping 40 in a loss to Portland on April 1 and 41 in a win over Utah in the penultimate game of the season. Even more impressive was the fact that he came off the bench in both of those games. Most of his accolades came from his scoring -– there was a stretch in late December through early January when he hit for 20 points or more in seven out of nine games –- but he was perhaps most proud of how his defense made the difference when he drew a game-saving charge on Josh Smith in a road win in Detroit in November.

Season lowlight: Young’s worst game was a 1-for-7 clunker in a loss to Dallas in January, but his worst moment came when he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the patella and a bone bruise in his left knee after planting his leg awkwardly in a game against Cleveland. The knee injury kept him out of 17 games over the second half of the season and derailed what was a pretty splendid season on a personal level for the seven-year vet.

Final grade: B-plus

Notes: In such a devastating season, Young was like the flower that grew out of the crack in the pavement. From his outlandish outfits, to silly celebrations, to his good-natured demeanor that hardly wavered (well, expect for that little skirmish in Phoenix), Young kept things light when things got tough. He quickly became a fan favorite as much for his personality off the court as for his ability to score in bunches on it.

Quotable: "I want to be here. I feel the love and it’s home for me. But, pretty much, I ain’t been in his situation where the ball’s in my court. I haven’t been in this situation, so I’m still learning and I’m still going over things. For me, it’s fun. I like this. I like being in this situation,” Young said at his exit interview.

What's next? Once Young opts out of his meager $1.1 million contract with the Lakers for next season, which will almost assuredly happen, both sides will have a tough decision to make. For Young, will the allure of L.A. and seeing his star rise so rapidly last season convince him to try to re-sign no matter what? Or will he want to find a deal closer to market value, like the $6 million he was paid in Philadelphia a season before joining the Lakers. For the Lakers, will they use up some of their coveted cap space on a known commodity in Young this summer, or will the appeal of what is sure to be a free agency bonanza in 2015 convince them that they better not tie up any of that money with Young on a long-term deal? Will both sides just try to find a common ground on a more lucrative one-year deal for next season? Or will Young be looking for more security at this point in his career?

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0