Nick Young has been one of the lone bright spots for the Wizards this season. Just a few months ago, he was an afterthought in the rotation, and Gilbert Arenas had to fake an injury just so he could get some playing time in the preseason. Now, Young is Washington’s leading scorer, averaging 18 PPG while also sporting a fantastic afro. At 25 years old (26 in June), Young should command a multi-year contract this summer when he becomes a free agent. So the question becomes this–what will Young’s asking price be, and will the Wizards pay him accordingly or let him walk?
Let me first say that this is all contingent on a new CBA, which could very well alter the way we know contracts altogether. But assuming for a moment that there are no major changes for upcoming free agents and the money they command (which I understand is certainly not a given, but play along), here’s what I foresee…
The Wizards will re-sign Nick Young. That is nearly guaranteed. Young is one of GM Ernie Grunfeld’s few draft successes (although he was nearly considered a failure), and you can bet your bottom dollar that Grunfeld will want to reward Young for panning out. There are a few teams who will have money to go after a free agent, but only one–the Pacers–seem like a real threat. Washington should be weary of Indiana, as GM Larry Bird has said repeatedly that his club intends to go after certain guys this summer with plenty of vigor. Considering the Pacers were a few minutes from acquiring O.J. Mayo at the Trade Deadline, it would only make sense for them to pursue another scorer like Young. Even still, Nick’s familiarity with the Wizards will probably lure him back to D.C., for the right price of course.
Looking at the salaries of shooting guards across the league, I can take a stab at a reasonable contract for Young. Joe Johnson is completely overpaid at 17 million dollars per season, and is a much better all-around player than Young. Nick’s agent could try to use Ben Gordon’s 11 million/year salary as a bargaining chip, as he’s a far better option that the Pistons shooting guard, but the Wizards won’t fall for that trick. Gordon, like Johnson, is overpaid big time. Nuggets guard J.R. Smith currently makes around the MLE (5.4 million/year), but is an upcoming free agent and will likely garner a small increase in cash. The most realistic range seems to be 7-8 million, where guys like Stephen Jackson (8.5 million), John Salmons (8 million), J.J. Redick (7.25 million), and Leandro Barbosa (7.1 million) make their money. I’d find a three or four year deal for 7.5 million/year to be fair, although not great in terms of financial flexibility for the Wizards. Hopefully, Grunfeld and company are able to remind Nick that he’s coming off his first ever “good” season, and he isn’t a proven enough commodity to make that kind of money. I’d be thrilled if we could bring Nick back for a MLE contract (5.5 million/year), but realistically, I doubt the Wizards are that lucky.