Nick Young: A Star in the Making
Although the NBA anointed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love as this season’s “Most Improved Player,” there is no doubt that fans in the DMV would argue that honor should have been bestowed upon the Wizards’ leading scorer, Nick Young. Make no mistake about it, this was Young’s coming out party and his play turned heads throughout the league.
Statistically, 2010-2011 was Nick’s best year. With averages of 17.4 ppg, 1.2 apg, 2.7 rpg while shooting 44% from the field and 82% from the free-throw line in 32 minutes per game, he proved that he is a prolific scorer in this league.
“I’ve been waiting on the opportunity to have a season like this,” Young recently told Wizards Extreme. “It was there and I took advantage of it. I’m glad how things turned out.”
After Gilbert Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic in December 2010, management decided to give the keys to running the offense to #1 overall draft pick John Wall and the handed the responsibility of scoring to Young. Both men embraced their respective new roles. Shortly after the trade, Nick’s productivity increased dramatically and opposing head coaches began taking note of the Wizards’ rising star. Young was humbled by the experience.
“Really, I’ve just seen how it is to get doubled team and how defenses key in on you,” said Young. “It was a great learning experience for myself.”
Even thought the results of Young’s hard work and perseverance are evident now, it has been a long and arduous journey. There have been times when the budding star has not seen eye-to-eye with Wizards’ Head Coach Flip Saunders. Nick admits that he has grown under Saunders’ tutelage and has come to appreciate and respect the job that Saunders has done for his game. According to Nick, both he and Coach Saunders found a balance to their relationship in the strangest of places.
“In practice,” concedes Young. “Every day this year I was just going hard and he [Saunders] kind of just let me play my game on the court. But, he was still there to coach me when I messed up...We’ve been around each other now. We know each other now.”
Besides being ready to take advantage of opportunities, on being the focal point in the offense, and developing a working relationship with his head coach, Young has had to adapt to playing heavy minutes on a nightly basis. For the bulk of his three year career, Nick was tasked with being a spark plug coming off of the bench and playing hard for a finite amount of time. However, as he learned this season, when you’re “the Man,” you have to pace yourself but still be aggressive and effective.
“It’s tough especially because it’s my first time playing that many minutes,” admitted Young. “It’s a lot of wear and tear; you hit the wall faster. This year I played 30-something minutes. My previous years, I played 15 minutes and had DNPs [“did not play”]. It was tough for me.”
Nick Young definitely took major strides this year in establishing himself as a bona fide NBA starting shooting guard. His upside is incredible and all of the time and energy that the Wizards have put into developing him has bourne fruit.
The question is, “Will the Wizards be able to keep him in DC?”
We’ll discuss that in the next episode...