Nick Young - Efficiently Evolved


Nick Young has built quite the resume over the last 12 years in the NBA. From dating pop star Iggy Azalea, to getting exposed by fellow rookie teammate D'Angelo Russell, all of the drama and personality seems to have come to fruition in his time as a Los Angeles Laker.

Nick Young's personality is a unique one, and so is his playing style. As many shooting guards whose specialty is to just shoot 3s, Nick "Swaggy P" Young embraced that role and more. Much like Cavaliers' shooting guard J.R. Smith, Young is a classic example of a no-defense ball hog with a tendency to pull up many a contested 3.

But hold your horses, folks. After two years of Swaggy P, you've got a new cowboy in town. His name is "Uncle P" - the Lakers defensive specialist and off-ball scorer.

In 8 games coming off the bench, Young has averaged 27.1 minutes per game, scoring 14.5 points per game on a 36.4 three-point percentage.

This isn't all that abnormal for Young - in his career year in 2010/11 with the Wizards, through 61 games he averaged 31.8 minutes a game, 17.4 points per game, and a .387 three-point percentage.

The past two years for the Lakers, Young has been inefficient, a hindrance to the growth of the team as a whole. Many expected him not to even make this roster this year. What has happened now to Nick Young's game that has transformed him, even beyond his box score totals?

Laker's Head Coach Luke Walton had told Young almost a month ago, before a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets, that he was starting in place of the injured Luol Deng. What was Coach Walton's challenge? To just go out there and play defense.

Young did just that.

He scored 14 points, with 4 rebounds and two steals. Even more so, he spent all night playing good defense. Getting low, following his defender off of screens, boxing out. It was like watching a brand new player on the court.

After the game, Young spoke on his defensive efforts, "You have a coach that is telling you to shoot the ball and has confidence in you. All he wants you to do is play defense and do whatever you want on offense. That gives yourself a lot of confidence."

Watch these highlights from when the Lakers played the Phoenix Suns on November 6th. His ability to just trail a fastbreak, come off a screen to score, and leaving the ball handling to Russell and Clarkson, is revitalizing his career.

This year Young is second on the team in 3 point percentage, with 36.4 three-point percentage. The only one with a higher percentage is Lou Williams at 39.4 percent. He's taken 51 three point shots out of his 84 total field goal attempts, clearly showing the emphasis the Lakers are placing on him shooting 3s. Young already leads the team in offensive win shares, and is averaging .178 win shares per 48, which is substantially higher than his career average of .051.

His usage of 18.7 percent is way down from his career average of 23.5. Young's true shooting percentage is 61.9 percent. His career average is 53 percent. In general, a true shooting percentage of above 60 percent is considered elite efficiency for any guard.

Young has yet to miss a free throw. 94.4 percent of his 3 pointers from this year have been assisted. The past two years for the Lakers, only 70 percent of his made 3s were assisted, the result of taking an extreme amount of inefficient isolation 3s. 

Nick Young is simply evolving into a different role. As many teams around the league clamor for a "3-and-D" wing, Young is becoming just that. Sure, his valiant defensive efforts may not be top of the league in effectiveness. But clearly, by accepting his role off the bench as an off-ball scorer in a system where Luke Walton requires engaged defense, Young has changed his game for the better.

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