Winning a championship is the ultimate goal in the NBA. However, many players go through their entire careers without coming close.
Last season, Nick Young became one of the lucky few who made it to the promised land. The veteran swingman landed with the Golden State Warriors last season and played a key role off the bench as the Warriors won their second consecutive title and third in the past four years.
He saw action in 80 games playing 17.4 minutes per contest. He averaged 7.3 points and shot 37.7 percent from the three-point line. For a guy who has often times been the brunt of NBA jokes, he felt like last season definitely validated his career.
“It felt good. I think it’s tough just winning in this league, to get a ring it’s even tougher,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “I was fortunate to get one, to be on a team that had some great players that wanted me to be on the team.”
Although Young had spent time on some pretty bad Los Angeles Lakers teams prior to last season, he proved that he could still be an effective contributor to a playoff team. It was why he waited a while this season before signing with a new team.
Almost two months into this season, Young signed with the Denver Nuggets, who were in need of guard help due to injuries to Gary Harris and Will Barton. Despite the injuries, the Nuggets have been one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
After spending last season with a winning team, the Nuggets caught Young’s attention. Had it been another team without any postseason aspirations, he was perfectly content to sit out the remainder of the season.
“It was just seeing if it was the right situation for me. The Nuggets happened to be a good fit for me,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “The only way I was coming back was if it was for a playoff team. I didn’t want to go through the rebuilding and everything all over again.”
Despite the recent injuries, the Nuggets still have quite a bit of depth on the team. Young has received playing time in four out of the five games since signing with the team, but his minutes have fluctuated and he’s usually been given garbage time duty.
He’s averaging career-lows in minutes per game (9.3), points (2.3) and field goal percentage (33.3 percent). He is, however, shooting 37.5 percent from the three-point line. As he’s gotten older, his role in the league has changed and he understands that.
“I’m pretty much just doing what they ask on the team, and just trying to stay ready,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “You never know when your name is going to be called. You’ve got to stay ready. I can bring shooting, being a vet and experience.”
As of now, the Nuggets are sitting at the top of the Western Conference at 21-10, mere percentage points ahead of the Warriors. They’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and they have yet to incorporate Isaiah Thomas in the lineup.
Looking around the locker room, Young is confident in what he sees with this group. Having spent an entire season around a championship locker room like the Warriors, he knows how to recognize when a group of guys are hungry to win.
“We just got to stay focused and not get bored of winning,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Winning in this league is tough, especially in the Western Conference.”
Swaggy P may not cover all of the areas of need Denver has with so many players sidelined with injuries. But as a veteran wing who can knock down shots from distance, he serves as a nice mid-season addition for a team with large aspirations.
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