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Free Agent Stock Watch: Nick Young

Nick Young made an unusual decision in December, and this summer he’ll see if it pays off. Before the season, Young became just the 12th player ever to sign a qualifying offer, the minimum offer a team can make to retain the right of first refusal on a player coming off his rookie contract. Usually, the offer is just a starting point for negotiations, if that, but in Young’s case, the one-year, $3,695,857 deal on the table from the Wizards came in handy when the condensed post-lockout market limited his options.

None of the other players who signed qualifying offers wound up re-signing with their teams as unrestricted free agents the following summer. The Wizards got the jump on a divorce from Young, sending their leading scorer from 2010/11 to the Clippers in a three-team swap at the trade deadline this March. Young went from starter to reserve as a result, but it gave him the opportunity to show what he could do as a significant contributor to a playoff team.  He displayed plenty of clutch shooting in the postseason, nailing 51.5% of his three-point attempts, including three in a row down in the fourth quarter of L.A.’s 27-point comeback in Game 1 against the Grizzlies.

Still, Young didn’t really prove anything we didn’t already know, aside from an ability to perform under pressure. He’s always been a solid three-point shooter, making 37.8% for his career, but his field goal percentage overall was a career-low 40.3% this past regular season, including 39.4% during his time with the Clippers.  In the playoffs, he shot 35.3% on two-pointers. Those sort of numbers help explain why Young has never posted a single season with a PER of at least 15.0, the mark of an average player. He’s also a liability defensively, as he had one of the worst defensive ratings for his team in both the regular season and the playoffs this year, according to Young’s unimpressive per-36-minute career highs of 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals demonstrate that if his long-range shots aren’t falling, there isn’t much he does to help his team on the floor.

For all his shortcomings, the 27-year-old Young is probably this year's most attractive unrestricted free agent shooting guard under the age of 35. That might change if the cash-strapped Grizzlies decide not to tender a qualifying offer to O.J. Mayo, but Young is likely in line for a raise and a multi-year deal. He reportedly sought $9MM per year from the Wizards in December, but I can’t see him approaching that figure. In the same report, Michael Lee of The Washington Post noted a that Young rejected an offer from the Wizards of around $5MM per year, so Young may be seeking to top that in order to justify his gamble on the qualifying offer. 

The Timberwolves, Cavs and Suns are all teams that could be willing to reach for a shooting guard this summer, and the Clippers could use a solid two-guard as well. We heard last month that L.A. seemed interested in re-signing Young, but that was before GM Neil Olshey left to take the same job with Portland. The Blazers, who have $20.6MM and three years left on Wesley Matthews’ contract, don’t seem like candidates to provide a similar offer to Young, but if they miss out on some of their other targets and Young fails to find a team willing to overpay for him, it could be a Rose Garden reunion for Olshey and his last major acquisition for the Clippers.


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