Now that we've had our honeymoon period of initial reaction, I wanted to find out exactly what to expect from Swaggy in a Sixers uni. To do so, I contacted two guys whose baksetball opinions I value greatly – Mike Prada of Bullets Forever (and SB Nation) and Steve Perrin of Clips Nation. Mike and Steve (mostly Mike) watched nearly every game of Young's NBA career, and I know Mike has spoken with him on numerous occasions (I stood next to him when he did so). What better way to learn about Swaggy than from the guys who've seen him most – good, bad, on-the-court, off-the-court, and everything in-between.
Make the jump for Mike's response, as Young spent the first four and a half years of his career with his favorite team. We'll have Steve's response later this weekend.
Nick Young is a walking contradiction. You'll love his easy, warm, outgoing personality as much as you'll be frustrated by his game. Let's start with the former. Young's one of the sweetest, most genuine people in the league. When he was younger, his brother died due to gang violence, and he had to lift up his entire family with his basketball. He switched schools twice in high school because it would have forced him to go to school with the same people that killed his brother. He ultimately made it through all that turmoil to make the league. All that explains his happy-go-lucky attitude that I think has caused him more criticism that appropriate. (Check out Second Chance Season when you get a chance).
At the same time, his game remains pretty frustrating. If Young focused only on the things he did well, he'd be a tremendously valuable player. He's among the league's best spot-up shooters, hits jumpers off curls well and is especially lethal from the corners. He's also an underrated man-to-man defender, certainly much better than Lou Williams. But he spends far too much time doing things he doesn't do well, like shoot off the dribble, go one-on-one and run pick and roll. If he wasn't so insistent on doing those things, we wouldn't laugh about his glaring deficiencies as a passer and rebounder.
Some of Young's play has been enabled by his coaches in the name of "instant offense." My concern is that Doug Collins, having lost Lou Williams, will turn to Young to fill the same role. The problem is that Young is not the playmaker, ball-handler, clock manager, driver, one-on-one player, etc. that Williams is. He provides a different skill set, but has tried too hard to stray from it. It also doesn't help that Young is on his second consecutive one-year contract; last year, he gunned away with the Wizards trying to secure a long-term deal. If Collins can convince Young to play like Courtney Lee, he'd be so much more valuable. Alas, I don't see that happening.
I always wish Young the best, though, because he's earnest and genuine. You'll experience this weird dichotomy of wanting him to succeed while getting exasperated that he'll never change. Those fans that value Young the person will let it bleed into their evaluation of Young the player. Those that can't stand Young the player will let it bleed into their evaluation of his character. I hope, one day, the two sides of Young will come together in a simple way.
With that, I want to, again, welcome Nick and thank Mike for the insight, as well as Steve (upcoming).