The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t totally dropped out of playoff contention, and the play of starting shooting guard Nick Young is a big reason why. Young is currently knocking down a scorching 44.4 percent of his three-point attempts, which ranks second in the entire NBA among high-volume shooters and has made him an invaluable asset for the team just months after it appeared he wouldn’t make the regular season roster.
With unexpected success like that, no one could blame Young for feeling pretty confident in his ability to make the seemingly impossible possible. That confidence probably factors in to why Young told Jared Zwerling of the NBA Players Association in a wide-ranging Q&A that he still believes the Lakers are in the hunt for the postseason despite their recent slide.
“I tell [my teammates] all the time, “We’re not far out of the playoffs,” Young told Zwerling when asked about his goals for this season. “We’re only [a few] games behind the eighth seed, so we can make some real showtime here. We’ve just got to stay focused.”
The Lakers’ 26 losses leave them in a three-way tie with the Miami HEAT and Brooklyn Nets for the most defeats in the league, but the Lakers have also played more games than any other team (39) and thus only sit four games back of the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference.
So could they actually make the playoffs? Probably not. The Lakers’ defense allows the most points per 100 possessions of any team in the league (110.3) while their offense can only 104.1 points per 100 possessions (which ranks 20th in the NBA). Teams with those types of marks usually don’t make the postseason.
To meet Young’s goal, the Lakers would also have to beat out the Sacramento Kings (currently eighth in the West) as well as the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers have a ton of young talent, but can they be better than all those teams right now? Probably not.
Still, Young’s confidence is representative of the culture change the Lakers have undergone. The whole team seems to realistically feel like they can compete with any opponent on any night, and while they’ve faced issues closing out games, that has mostly proven true this season. Young has played a big part in that, and it’s hard to blame him for feeling like he can make all the doubters look dumb for the second time this year.
Even aside from Young talking about the playoffs, Zwerling’s whole Q&A with the Lakers’ swaggiest guard is worth a read for all fans of the purple and gold, especially for anecdotes like this (emphasis mine):
NBPA: Do you tune into the social media frenzy over your celebrations after games?
NY: Oh yeah. They loved that one [on Tuesday night]. It was on NBA TV. I get texts and everything. My mom sent me a text, “You’re taking my style. I’m Hollywood. I’m supposed to be the Hollywood one” [laughs]. But my mom encourages me to do them, “Be you. Don’t care about what other people think. You’re an entertainer; that’s what you do. Your name is Swaggy P.”
Nick Young’s mom tells him “your name is Swaggy P.” That is one of the greatest things I’ve read this year. Forget all the stats above. The Lakers are making the playoffs.