Coming into the season, there were few high expectations of the team. The Lakers had to move on from an off-season that didn’t work out perfectly. The organization could only hope the free agent pick ups would have the best seasons of their individual careers, and extend their professional life with the Lakers or elsewhere.
I don’t think anyone saw Nick Young having his best year.
With all of the playmakers out for the Laker team, Nick Young is struggling at the position. But next to a playmaker, whether it’s Steve Blake, Pau Gasol, or Kobe Bryant, he excels. His career highs have come naturally through playing time, specifically, when he started for the Washington Wizards. It should be more of a surprise that his most efficient year is coming off the bench.
Let’s take a few seasons out for analysis.
In ’10-’11, he shot a career high 44.1% on field goal attempts over 10 shots a game. He shot 38.7% behind the arc for a career high 17.4 points per game, in 31.8 minutes per game.
In ’11-’12, he shot 40.6% on a career high 14.8 shots per game. He shot 37.1% behind the arc, for 16.6 points per game in 30.3 minutes of play.
This year, he’s shooting 43.1% on 12.3 attempts per game. He’s shooting 38.2% behind the arc, for 15.6 points per game in 27.2 minutes of play.
Dec 20, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers small forward Nick Young (0) celebrates a 3-point basket by center Pau Gasol (16) in the second half of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. The Lakers won 104-91. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
But in other statistics, as small as they may be, are more impactful for the Lakers.
2.4 rebounds per game compared to 2.7 rebounds per game in 5 less minutes of play.
1.4 assists per game, equal to his previous year, which is a career high.
0.8 steals per game in 5 less minutes of play, also a career high.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Those numbers are small, almost laughable. They barely register on the radar. Take a step back and think about it. What about those times that Nick Young drives baseline and hits Shawne Williams for a corner 3-pointer? What about those times when he pairs up with Xavier Henry, floods the passing lanes, and gets a breakaway dunk? What about those times when he goes into an isolation move to bail the team out, and never turns the ball over? What about the times that he took a charge to make a defensive play? He took a charge against the Sacramento Kings for a win! These are all small plays that have helped build and extend Laker leads.
How many times as he been the “Subway Sub of the Game?” Sometimes Jordan Hill comes out with a breakthrough performance. Xavier Henry may have a killer game at home. But, Nick Young does it on the road, at home, and shares the enthusiasm with his teammates. Both you and I saw how excited he was, when he was on fire, NBA Jam style, and was equally as enthusiastic about Pau Gasol hitting a corner three. That kind of energy, enthusiasm, and joy is infectious.
It’s typical of a Mike D’Antoni team to share in that energy and enthusiasm.
We can only hope that it’s enough to carry the team through this lull in the season full of injuries. It’ll make for a more exciting time when the Laker players come back healthy. In the mean time, it’s been a joy to watch Nick Young this season. He has certainly exceeded my expectations.