Prior to the start of training camp, most of the talks surrounding Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young involved either trade rumors or how he could possibly coexist alongside D’Angelo Russell. But, after showing how he can be a valuable piece in Luke Walton’s system and that last season’s drama seems far behind them, the headlines have quickly changed to a different tune.
“The way he’s playing right now, it’s going to make decisions tough,” Walton said about Young playing his way into solidifying a rotation spot. “Because, he not only gives us such a threat from scoring the ball, he had a couple beautiful assists last game (vs. Portland Trail Blazers) where he drew the defenders and got the bigs easy looks. He’s been one of our better rebounds since we started playing him, and defensively, he’s been getting after people and doing all those things, so it’s tough to keep someone like that out of the rotation.”
It’s true, Young has showcased a defensive mindset over the past few preseason games that we didn’t see last season. And, everything is easier when he’s hitting shots, which he is, knocking down 11 three-pointers over the past four preseason games, averaging 10.75 points. Walton also said he challenged Young on the defensive end, prior to the start of preseason, and he’s impressed with how he’s responded.
This also makes rotation decisions tougher for Walton, who has been consistent with having Lou Williams in the starting unit and Jordan Clarkson off the bench, though he’s also said to expect lineup changes for their next game on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors.
Young’s also developed a “little connection” with Julius Randle, who had five assists in their loss to the Sacramento Kings, describing him as “Magic Johnson on his fast breaks,” after finding Young for a few open threes.
“It’s crazy to be a four-man and do the things he do,” Young said of Randle. “But we kind of got this little connection and I like it.”
Speaking of Randle, prior to the game, Walton said he’s really enjoyed watching his development, specifically with pushing the ball and that two-man game, Young just described.
“Julius is becoming great at really pushing the ball and finding guards and doing little quick two-man games with some of our shooters,” Walton said on Thursday. “So, it’s been great to see that development.”
With Walton anticipating lineup changes on Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do with Nick Young. Though Walton only carved out about 12 minutes of playing time for him Thursday, Young made the most of it, missing only one of his four three-point attempts off the bench.