News broke on Monday morning that the Denver Nuggets had agreed to contract terms with a player previously of the Champion Golden State Warriors.
Contrary to our gut feelings about chemistry on the Denver Nuggets roster, Nick Young can actually help the Nuggets through the injury minefield and beyond.
Denver has depth issues in the backcourt with Gary Harris and Isaiah Thomas out and Jamal Murray hobbled. While Thomas and the also-injured Will Barton are vocal and display leadership characteristics, that role is hampered with them in street clothes. They can be powerful locker room voices but the Denver Nuggets need some of that on-the-floor as well.
It seems odd to say but even mired in the injury situation Denver finds themselves in, they also need to keep the joy in their game. The Nuggets are at their best when they are the freewheeling up-and-down team that plays with confidence. Even the bench reactions to plays have become comparatively tame. Denver needs Malik Beasley‘s bench presence but not as much as they need his on-floor performance. So, there’s an opening for a player that can ramp-up the happy feelings around the team and also perform on the floor.
Enter the larger-than-life Young who, more than anyone available, espouses both roles. He has an easy, infectious smile and a good attitude toward this team and his role. He’s can also be a freaky good shooter and playmaker which is valuable to a team that has a tendency to slump, offensively.
So, what are some specific ways Young can help the Nuggets?
First, he can eat minutes at both wing positions. There are points, even now, in the season when the Nuggets look exhausted. 10-12 extra minutes per game of rest will pay dividends should the Nuggets find themselves in a late-season push for playoff positioning, as they have the last two seasons. Young played a prominent reserve role on the Warriors championship squad and had his role in delivering Golden State their latest chip. Denver uses Torrey Craig situationally for his defensive abilities. Young can be that guy on the other side of the ball. A Vinnie Johnson or J.R. Smith-type that can infuse unstoppable offense and jump-start a struggling team.
Next, Young brings the brand of vocal leadership (yeah, I just said Swaggy P is a leader) that Barton and Thomas can’t have in their street clothes. He also brings a playoff pedigree that Barton lacks and a ring that has eluded Thomas. There’s gravity in Young’s accomplishments to young players. His Swaggy P persona may have been too much in the past but at 33, Young has found a nice blend of Nick and Swaggy. Using his personality to lead is a skill and it’s possible he learned to hone that skill from one of its best purveyors in Draymond Green.
Last, Nick Young brings playoff experience to the fourth youngest team in the NBA but as-important, he brings joy to the game. He smiles through it all. He says all the right things but there’s an imp-ish gleam in his eye and that’s something the Nuggets have been missing since Nikola Jokic‘ unfair league fine and reprimand for comments he made about Chicago Bulls rookie Wendell Carter‘s length. The attention silenced the usually goofy and funny Jokic and with it, the fun that normally surrounds this Nuggets squad. Again, another place where Young makes a huge positive impact but brings little risk. It already seems like he’ll fit in well with fun personalities in Barton, Thomas, Beasley and Harris. More important, it seems like Young’s personality is a nice match for Michael Malone.
Time will tell what role and impact Nick Young will have on this Denver Nuggets team but the move is another in a long line of very smart, low-risk moves from the Nuggets.