The Lakers are in new territory with Nick Young.
The brazen veteran was widely expected to be moved or cut by the Lakers before the start of the season. Young, 31, surprised many by playing well during the preseason, eventually notching a spot on the roster.
His stellar play has continued into the regular season. Young currently claims a top-ten spot in offensive rating, true shooting percentage, and effective field goal percentage. Young is the only guard in the NBA to be top-10 in all three categories.
The Lakers are currently in a position where the offense would go into shock if you removed Nick Young from the team. Somewhere in an irrelevant land, Byron Scott just woke up from a nightmare. The team already experienced something of a nightmare when Young missed a few games with a strained calf. The time he missed served as a portal to the darkest timeline – an apocalyptic world of bad basketball in a toxic environment; strangely enough, this world also looked like last season. For the Lakers, Nick Young is extremely valuable.
With all that said, the most logical decision would be to trade Nick Young.
He has a player option next year and he won’t pick it up. It doesn’t matter how much he likes Los Angeles. Nor does his enhanced game, minutes, or his improved relationship with Russell impact anything.
It all comes down to the contract.
The Lakers probably won’t shell out the money needed to keep Young if he manages to partially maintain his form throughout the season. The balance needed to signing talent now and saving money for the young guys in the future was thrown out of whack after paying a premium for Deng and Mozgov. Young could end up demanding 10-13 million dollars in the open market. Even if it isn’t the money, Young will probably bite at the chance to sign a new contract that keeps him in the league for numerous years.
The Lakers find themselves in a precarious situation. Young’s offense simply can not be replaced this season, but he probably won’t be a Laker next season. Young playing like an elite player doesn’t mean teams will pay for him like one, but if he wasn’t playing like an elite player, trading him wouldn’t be an option anyway.
The Nick Young conundrum plaguing Los Angeles is a familiar one. The Lakers may not know how they feel about Young when they initially didn’t expect him to make the roster. They should already know where they stand by looking at their philosophy on veterans versus youth, winning versus losing, and long-term growth versus the short-term.
If they don’t know that already, the next few years in Los Angeles will be difficult for the organization to endure.