Evaluating Nick Young in 2008-09
Wizards player evaluations for ‘08-09 continue, up seventh is Nick Young. My thoughts are below, you can check on the full report on Bullets Forever.
Nick Young has a fighting chance to earn minutes in ’09-10, but an unforgiving window of opportunity. Flip Saunders loves his veterans, but I’m confident he’ll play the better man. Might the coach be able to look past Young’s defensive inefficiencies if he becomes more consistent on offense? Only if Young learns to create for others, doesn’t slow down ball movement, and is able to heat up quickly in limited minutes.
After Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, Nick Young is the most diverse offensive player on the Wizards. He’ll sky to dunk on heads. His single crossover will send defenders in different directions. He can hang and double clutch to get around arms. His stop pull-back and pop jumper makes people look silly. Hisfadeaway can’t be stopped. And if Bean Burrito‘s play on offense in the summer league proves to be true growth, his ability to hit spot up threes and run off screens could make him a tough assignment for anyone in the league.
However, to illustrate his inconsistent offense in ’08-09:
- Young established career highs on January 9th (28 points),
- On the 12th (30 points), and
- On the 14th (33 points).
But then went through inconsistent stretches where have averaged:
- 5.4 ppg on .324 FG% over the next eight games,
- 19.2 ppg on .543 FG% over the following five games,
- 7.4 ppg on .335 FG% over the next 13 games, and
- 13.4 ppg on .559 FG% over his last 18 games.
With a glut in the backcourt and Saunders’ eight-man +2 rotation, Young will have to find a way to make a difference on the court with significantly less minutes than the 22.4 he got in ’08-09. Contributing with rebounds and assists would be a start. Unfortunately, Young has a long way to go in these departments. Since 1946-47, only three players in their second NBA season, who primarily play the guard position, have averaged:
- more than 10 ppg,
- more than 20 minutes per game,
- less than 2.5 rebounds per game, and
- less than 1.5 assists per game.
The culprits are Nick Young, Nate Robinson, and Harold Miner. Also, Young’s 13.1 PER places third after Robinson’s 15.2 and Miner’s 14.0. Yikes … not exactly good company.
So many areas of needed improvement and I’ve barely touched upon Nick’s defense. It’s not all bad news, but there’s not a lot of good news either. Kevin Broom has a good breakdown of Young’s defense on his blog, The Secret Weapon. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s a contention floating around that Nick Young was a “slightly above average” defender last season. This is based primarily on three pieces of evidence:
- Young led the Wizards last season in defensive on/off.
- Young’s counterpart stats weren’t terrible — opposing SGs had a PER of 15.8 when young was in the game.
- Young blocks a decent number of shots for a guard.
While I agree he’s not awful defensively, I don’t think the evidence supports the “slightly above average” claim. While I’m an ardent supporter of using stats to evaluate players, it’s important to scrutinize the data to be sure the numbers are actually saying what we think they’re saying. In Young’s case, I think the on/off number may just be a fluke or luck.
In the end, perhaps what’s holding Nick Young back most is himself. Much has been made about the kid smiling a lot. Nothing wrong with being happy. But if he can channel emotions into possessing the intense nature of a stone-cold offensive killer, and into the passion and pride it takes to not let your man score on you, then time over both Randy Foye and DeShawn Stevenson at the shooting guard position is not out of the question.