Earlier in the season, Nick Young and Jamal Crawford were the favorites to take home the Sixth Man of the Year award in the 2013-14 season. However, the Los Angeles Lakers‘ constant losing caused much of the hype surrounding Young to die down a bit. Even with the decreased exposure, Young has managed to maintain a league-leading 17 points per game off the bench.
When the Lakers faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers though, Young exploded by dropping an efficient 40 points on 15-of-26 shooting from the field and 6-of-13 from deep. His effort almost single-handedly willed Los Angeles to victory against an extremely talented Portland team, but unfortunately his big game was not rewarded with a victory.
On the bright side, Young did receive much praise from Shaquille O’Neal, Rick Fox, and Dennis Scott at halftime as they stated he has the potential to be a ‘great player’ in this league one day.
Looking back on how much Young has improved alone warrants the high praise. This is the same player who was supposed to be a vital part to the Washington Wizards a few years ago, but could not get over the hump because of his goofy attitude alongside buddies JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
These years caused Young’s reputation to almost be permanently tainted, labelling him as a chucker, and a player who cares solely about his individual statistics rather than for the success of the team. As a result, Washington ultimately decided to cut ties with him by trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers, which consequently involved his partner in crime, JaVale McGee.
Despite not receiving much playing time with the Clippers, Young played a key role in numerous games which boosted the team to playoff contention for the first time in years. However, his play did not earn him a second shot in Los Angeles, resulting in a one-year, $6 million deal from the Philadelphia 76ers. Again, Young failed to impress in Philadelphia, causing his value last summer to plummet to an all-time low.
Here’s where the Lakers came to the rescue, taking the risk in signing Young to a one-year veteran’s minimum deal and offering an audition of some sort. To say he exceeded expectations would be a massive understatement.
Young has came up huge in multiple games this season, filling the Kobe Bryant void as best he can. Efficiency and an improved attitude have earned Young tons of freedom on the court from Mike D’Antoni, as he has tied his career-high with 17 points per game. The key to Young this season though, has been his mindset. Although he is still not the greatest defender out there, you can tell he has been working hard to improve it. His attitude seems to be more about the team rather than himself, causing the tough Lakers fans to fall in love with him.
Luckily for Young, his stellar play has likely earned him a long-term contract involving a much more generous salary. The icing on the cake would of course be winning the Sixth Man of the Year award, but being in consideration for the award is an accomplishment in itself. Let’s just hope he can keep his play up in the final stretch of what has been a difficult season.