The Lakers cap space will finally open up after years of being left with only exceptions and minimums to offer free agents. That flexibility could be key for the Lakers as they push to be in contention again after a handful of disappointing seasons. Two coaches ousted and a top-10 draft pick since their last NBA title later and here they are, money to burn and wrongs to right.
The flip side is the team needs to piece together a roster from near-scratch. A good starting point might be bringing back their leader in scoring, free-throw attempts and Player Efficiency Rating ... you know, Nick Young. They don't have a core to build around and must continue searching for foundational players. The Lakers spent a year turning over more rocks than we're used to seeing, and the time for the front office to decide on whether they found pieces worth keeping is drawing near. This leads us to the question of the week:
If you were the Lakers front office, would you re-sign Nick Young? If so, what’s a fair contract for him?
The Great Mambino
I couldn’t have been more wrong about Nick Young. There. I said it. Before the season started, I wrote:
"In a word, he is selfish. He only cares about how Nick Young scores the ball, all other facets of the NBA game be damned. Hopefully he will benefit from playing alongside consummate professionals like Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Steve Blake. Young will undoubtedly be an offensive weapon to them, but only as a finisher on set shot plays. Other than that, he could be disruptive on both sides of the ball. I can't imagine him being anything besides incredibly frustrating and disappointing this upcoming season. But at least in that way, he'll be consistent in some regard."
Young proved to be so few of those things that I’m still in shock. Swaggy P wasn’t just a plus offensive contributor, but actually did something I never expected him to do in his career: Absolutely played his ass off and became a leader of men. I still cannot believe I’m typing those words. With the absence of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol for long stretches last season, Young became the go-to offensive weapon and happily, efficiently accepted the responsibilities. And the most shocking development of all? Young actually played defense and cared about it. Before the season, I would have been less shocked if you told me the Charlotte Bobcats would be a playoff team.
That being said, I would absolutely re-sign him if I were the Lakers front office, but it looks like he’ll be out of the team’s price range. Young’s performance this season most likely puts him on the Jamal Crawford-type financial plane, with a deal in the neighborhood of three years and $15 million. This is probably a bit too rich for the Lakers, who have to be quite selective about their role players if guys like Kyle Lowry and Luol Deng are in their sights.
Yes, sign me up for another year with Nick Young. A few weeks ago I went into detail on a few specific areas he was incredibly effective for the Lakers. The results were mostly reflected in the graphic to the right, as tracked by Synergy Sports Technology. Young's an effective player to put in motion on offense who can't be allowed the freedom to create his own shots. The second part we knew, the first part is an interesting development if he builds on it.
It's easy to be lulled into casually rooting for him, especially when the Lakers were digging for talent through the season, but the numbers certify he had a solid year and deserves the proper recognition.
The Lakers will have to scrape the barrel again to fill out their roster and Young has become a productive, known commodity to the team. Sure, they can roll the dice on any number of nomad wing players on a small contract, but how much more would it cost to keep Swaggy in purple and gold and how much better could a similarly valued replacement player possibly be? It might not be surprising when he opts out of the $1.2 million player option he has for the 2014-'15 season, but it will be interesting to hear what kind of numbers the sides reach in negotiations.
Young has every right to cash in on a career year and can probably fetch a three-year deal without much trouble. If I'm the Lakers I'd have to pitch some sort of two-year deal worth close something near $8 million total, with the second year being a team option. That type of short-term contract might not be enough to keep him in L.A., but it's hard to find a fair contract for both sides.
He played his ass off, was a joy to watch and is an easy role player for a new incoming head coach to work into rotations. Finding a way to sign him on the kind of forgiving contract the Lakers need could be a coup for a team missing a little bit of everything, everywhere.
Hometown discount? Please?
Nick Young was tremendous for the Lakers last year, turning in a consistent performance off the bench and putting up per 36 numbers that rivaled those of the Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford. He had a great attitude in the throes of a losing season, bringing good energy and fun to a squad that could have been sucked dry of both.
He was easily the most entertaining Laker on and off the court, something that matters for season ticket holders and fans playing L.A. prices to see a 27-55 squad. Nick Young made adjustments that many thought he wouldn't or couldn't make - including fitting into an unselfish offensive system and putting forth effort on defense. It is hard to imagine Swaggy's signing going better for the Lake Show than it did.
If I were sitting in Kupchak's chair, I would try to re-sign Nick Young, but only if the price was right. This upcoming year is a player option Swaggy P is all but assured to opt out of. He should be able to command something near the mid-level exception in the open market, which is a price I'd be hesitant to pay. Swaggy P is the real deal as a sixth man and backup wing, but Kobe's extension really hampers their flexibility. They have needs and depth issues at virtually every position, which means committing mid-level money to Kobe's back-up might not be the best strategy.
If he can be signed for anything up to $3-4 million per year, I would pull the trigger. Swaggy P is a local kid who wants to be a Laker. In a perfect world, he would be and should be. Unfortunately, the Lakers need to be extremely calculated about the future and I'm guessing that means we won't be seeing Nick Young in purple and gold again next season.