Nick Young’s future with the Los Angeles Lakers has been murky for months. The inconsistent shooting guard, coming off a season that included a career-low 7.3 points per game on 33.9 percent shooting, has reportedly been on the trading block since the February deadline but his contract may be hindering L.A.’s attempts.
Following the Lakers' spending this summer, Young’s the seventh highest-paid player on L.A.’s roster, scheduled to make $5.4 million in the upcoming season. Young signed a four-year, $21.3 million deal with the Lakers back in 2014, and he won’t be a free agent until the summer of 2018.
Given the Lakers' youth movement as they transition out of the Kobe Bryant era and their free-agent signings, there may not be much playing time for the 31-year-old next season. Though Young may have or has at least started to forgive second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell for the salacious video he posted online, L.A. may just want to move on from this big distraction.
According to veteran sports reporter Kevin Ding, the Lakers seem to think Young’s on the decline and are ready to fully hand the franchise keys over to young players like Russell.
"I would frankly be surprised if Nick Young was on the Lakers' roster at the start of the season,” Ding said in a video segment last week. "They've been trying to trade him for a while, they're still trying to trade him, they are willing to even buy him out if necessary to move on and really commit to the youth movement and let D'Angelo Russell do his thing.
"Which to me is a little bit of a shame because Nick did bring a legitimate breath of fresh air a couple years ago with his energy, his real pride in being a Laker when the team was terrible. Unfortunately, Nick sort of became terrible in recent times and that's why they're ready to move on from him."
Dropping Young could be the last move to rid the Lakers of their dreadful 2015-16 season. The Lakers finished with a 17-65 record, a franchise worst, with Young earning only two starts in 54 games.
If Young’s deal was expiring he may be an attractive piece to a team short on perimeter scoring, however, he owns a player option worth $5.6 million for the 2017-18 season. That fact could easily scare off many teams, even under the league’s ever-inflating salary cap.
General manager Mitch Kupchak has no doubt let other clubs know that Young is available, and it seems unlikely that 29 teams will have a change of heart. Young, often known by the nickname "Swaggy P," has developed a reputation for tardiness and a lackadaisical personality. While he is a solid shooter, the Lakers may have no choice but to cut ties with him altogether.
In the 2010-11 season, his fourth in the league since breaking out with the Washington Wizards, Young became a reliable No. 2 scorer by averaging 17.4 points a game. He was eventually traded during the 2011-12 campaign to the Clippers, and then signed up with the Philadelphia 76ers before landing with Lakers.
Young would score a career-high 17.9 points a contest in his first season at Staples Center, but did little else with only 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. His scoring numbers have declined and he’s done little to expand his repertoire, averaging 1.0 assist a game over his 10-year career. Still, he is a career 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
Dropping Young may also allow new head coach Luke Walton to experiment with his lineups. Recent No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram could split time between the frontcourt and shooting guard if Walton wants to go big on the perimeter and take advantage of the considerable range on the rookie’s jumper and his length on defense.