Nick Young has historically had an offensive-minded, streaky game as a shooter that made him a logical choice to play in Mike D’Antoni’s system, especially on a contract near the veteran’s minimum salary for two years at most.
But his play with the Lakers has been surprisingly consistent to this point in the season, and Young has even shown flashes on the defensive end of the floor, taking a charge with the game on the line in L.A.’s most recent win over the Pistons.
D’Antoni believes Young’s play off the bench (should it continue) might make him a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, as long as the Lakers as a team achieve some measure of success.
From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
“He should. If we can get our record [good],” D’Antoni said. “That’s going to be the product of the team. He’s playing well enough. But if we surprise people, get in the playoffs and do really well, yeah, he’ll have a really good chance at it.” …
“I’m loving it with his concentration and ability not to take a play off,” D’Antoni said. “We have a few guys who have home run trots and were not engaged. But for the most part, most guys have gotten that out of their game. They’re engaged. A lot of that is due to the chemistry of the team and how they feel about themselves. We can keep getting better. He’s playing both ends of the floor. He’s playing phenomenally.”
Young is averaging 14 points while shooting 43.6 percent in 25.2 minutes per game so far this season. He’s started six of the Lakers’ 17 games, but that was due to other guys being injured more than it was D’Antoni’s preference.
J.R. Smith took home the Sixth Man award last year by averaging 18.1 points per game for the Knicks, albeit in a much larger, 33.1 minutes per game role. James Harden won it the year before that in his final season in Oklahoma City with a 19.3 points per game average in 31.4 minutes per contest.
It would seem to be a stretch for Young to win it based on his current numbers, but who knows? If he continues to play meaningful minutes consistently with the occasional burst and the Lakers find themselves in the playoffs at the end of the season, it’s a possibility if nothing else.