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Is Nick Young the Missing Piece?

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As most of us know by now the Clippers acquired 26 year-old Nick Young today from the Washington Wizards. Young was on a one year deal with the Wizards after leading the team in scoring last year with 17.4 points per game. He's been scoring at a 16.6 pace this year, averaging 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 turnovers and 1.2 assists. His advanced stats? His per is 14.4, ts% -.513, efg% -.468. He's shooting .371 from behind the line and averaging around 5 attempts per game. He's a specimen: listed at 6'7" and 200 pounds, has a 44 inch vertical, a 6'11 wingspan, and "massive" hands. He's out of Reseda, Cleveland High, and of course was drafted out of USC. His basketball-ref page is here.

Young signed a 3.7 million dollar one year qualifying offer back in December after being a restricted free agent this off season. Rumor has it he was looking for a number quite a bit larger, somewhere in the 9 million dollar range, but no one signed him to an offer sheet and he re-upped with the Wiz. Interestingly, Young had to give up his Bird rights in order to sign with the Clips and if the team has any desire to sign him beyond this year, they won't be able to go over the cap in order to do it. It's unlikely that the Clippers would do that anyway... with big numbers committed already to DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler and even bigger numbers earmarked for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers can't afford it... unless Young turns out to be something more than he's been up until now.

For the Clips the signing really is a no-brainer... a nice piece of work by GM Neil Olshey. While many of the Clipper fanbase was looking for a bigger splash (Ray Allen) Young cost the Clippers very little: The Clippers sent out (apparently) one of their TPE's (worth 3.5 or 2.8 million), the expiring contract of Brian Cook, and a "future second rounder". It was a three team swap with the Denver Nuggets and the Wizards, and since a player can't be combined in a trade with a TPE, the deal had to be structured in such a manner that Cook went out to one team and the TPE went to the other. Also involved in the trade were Nene (who winds up in Washington) and Javale McGee and Rony Turiaf (who go to Denver).

Of course, the Clippers have been desperately searching for an answer at the off guard spot since Chauncey Billups was injured, and also desperately need a wing defender. Is Nick Young the answer to either of those dilemmas? Well, there's no doubt that Young can shoot (and he likes to do it often). According to Kevin Arnovitz, Young's particularly effective from the corner where he's at 54.5 percent shooter on corner 3s, and his 30 makes from that zone rank him seventh in the NBA. Arnovitz' theory is that with the Clippers primarily running a pick-and-roll offense those corner spot ups become particularly important.

So, how's Young as a defender? The jury's out on this issue. He's 6'7" and long-armed and that immediately makes him the biggest (by far) guard on the Clips roster. There are those observers who declare him a pretty-decent (if somewhat unmotivated) man-on-man defender. But in fairness, he plays for a team that exhibits little defensive enthusiasm... and little collective court-savvy. The Clippers, at the very least, have the heady Chris Paul and a veteran core. Young certainly isn't going to be a defensive leader... but he could become a critical piece. He might help the Clipper D on size alone.

What about his well-documented penchant for ball-stopping (one assist per game career... seriously)? He's certainly not the only guy on the Clippers with a love for his own shot Mo Williams and often Randy Foye come to mind. But it's important for Young to realize that this is a great opportunity. He's returning to his roots and off-season home. He gets to play for a team that is almost certainly playoff bound and one that now regularly appears on national television. He can upgrade his stock and his earning potential for next season a great deal by proving he can play team ball offensively and defensively through the rest of this year... and in the process help the Clips in their epic quest to reach the promised land (or something in the near vicinity).