My personal opinion is that this current roster has 3 guys possibly worth keeping for the long-term: John Wall, JaVale McGee, and Nick Young. I can now hear you singing, "one of these things is not like the other, not like the other one...." Young Sushi is more than a DCLS favorite though, and his improvement this year has been more than enough to convince me that he is a keeper.
This post was triggered by an article from Kevin Broom the WaPo's Box Seats that calls Sushi "Fool's Gold." I was going to write a long rebuttal with tons of incredible research and witticisms, but Rook from Bullets Forever beat me to the punch.
The basic argument revolves around the following:
- Whether his style of play could fit on a good team
- Does he contribute anything outside of scoring, such as rebounds and assists and does he need to?
- Whether Nick will still improve
2. With that in mind, Nick is clearly not a great rebounder or playmaker, but those facets of his game are improving. However, he is currently a slightly below average rebounder, but not an atrocious one, and recent evidence indicates that he may improve enough to be at least an average rebounder. He may never be elite, but he is at least acceptable. Although Nick is a historically bad passer, playmaking is a similar story to rebounding. He will never even be an 'average' passer, but his assist rate has risen recently to over 2 per game, which is not far behind the 3 apg of Reggie Miller and 3.5 apg of Rip Hamilton.
I actually think Nick's catch and shoot style is a good fit for him, because it removes playmaking responsibilities from him.
3. Nick's defense is great and while gaining some recognition, is still underrated. Everyone needs to stop being colored by his facial expression and demeanor and watch him play 1-on-1....he is excellent. Sure, his team defense is not amazing, but his defensive impact for every season of his career has been measured as excellent by metrics. To continue the comparison to Rip and Reggie, this one is no contest....Nick is the far superior defender to either of those guys.
4. Nick will definitely still improve. Rook astutely makes the point that Nick has only had a decent coach for about 2 years, and now has only gotten consistent minutes for about 20 games. I will go even further and say that Nick remolded his game from a slashing to catch and shoot, and is really only in his 2nd season of playing this new way. The jump from last season has been incredible, and it hard to see him not getting better when he is still young, and has only 20 starts under his belt. The only counterargument I can see is that he is taking bad shots but making them at what appears to be an unsustainable level. Even though he has kept this pace up for 20 or so games, Nick may revert back to making fewer of these tough shots. On the other hand, Nick may also learn to pick and choose his spots better, and take more efficient shots.....
The bottom line is then whether Nick is worth keeping, and I say yes. I think we have a rich man's Rip Hamilton on our hands, and although Rip won a title on an oddly constructed team, it is pretty clear that a player approximating Rip is a keeper and building block. Coming into this season I thought an improvement in Nick's ability to catch and shoot, coupled with his already great defense, would make him an excellent 6th man. It is safe to say that Nick has now surpassed those expectations and shown he can indeed be a starter on a very good team.
(Image courtesy of truthaboutit.net)