Can Nick Young Bounce Back With Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been god-awful the last two season, with last year’s 21-61 campaign an embarrassing low in the history of the league’s most glamorous franchise. There were plenty of reasons the Lakers were so bad this past year, and one of those was the poor play of Nick Young.

Young, aka “Swaggy P,” actually enjoyed the best season of his career in a 55-loss 2013-14 season, putting up 17.9 points per game while shooting 43.5 percent overall and 38.6 percent from three. But last season was a disaster for Young, as his numbers dipped across the board before he missed the last two months of the year with a knee injury.

Young’s shooting percentage went from 43.5 percent to 36.6 percent, although his three-point percentage only went from 38.6 percent to 36.9 percent, which isn’t bad. The problem is his two-point percentage went from 46.8 percent down to a woeful 36.3 percent, one of the worst marks in the entire league.

Nearly a third of Young’s shots were mid-range jumpers, and he made just over a third of those, per NBA.com. Related to that, he took nearly four pull-up two-pointers and made only 32.1 percent of those shots, per SportVU. Combine this with an inability to do much work in the paint (under 20 percent of his shots), and you wind up with a huge regression.

Making matters even worse for the Lakers is the fact that they gave him a four-year deal after his big 2013-14. In the grand scheme of things with the cap rising, about $5 million a year over the next three years isn’t horrible, but it certainly isn’t good if Young can’t turn his play around. Los Angeles tried to trade him this offseason (he said he felt like former Laker Pau Gasol because of all the rumors), but there were no good deals to be made, likely because teams were hesitant (or just didn’t want to) to take on three more years of Young.

Now it appears Young will definitely be on the roster heading into next season, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Lakers forward Nick Young recently met with general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to league sources familiar with the situation.

It is not entirely clear what Young and Kupchak addressed in their meeting. It is typical for Kupchak to meet with players to discuss both professional and private issues. But the conversation at least left Young feeling comfortable enough that he will enter the 2015-16 season on the Lakers’ roster, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

Can Young bounce back from his injury and have a season closer to 2013-14 than 2014-15? It’s going to be an interesting dynamic in Los Angeles next season, with Kobe Bryant returning from another season-ending injury, D’Angelo Russell getting big minutes (hopefully), Jordan Clarkson emerging and Lou Williams on board. There’s only one ball to go around, so it’ll be entertaining to see how Byron Scott works this out.

Perhaps playing alongside all these other ball-dominant players will be a good thing for Young. If there’s not as much scoring burden on him, he can focus on being a spot-up three-point shooter instead of forcing tough shots. (The majority of his two-point attempts were either very tightly defended or tightly defended, per SportVU.) That would almost surely lead to an uptick in efficiency and an increase in trade value if the Lakers want to deal him before the deadline.

Not all hope is lost for Young in Los Angeles. There’s always the chance that last season was a really bad outlier (he had never shot worse than 42 percent on two-pointers in his career) and we see him return to form in 2015-16. He’ll never be a great defender or passer, but he has value as a volume shooter when he’s going good.

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