Nick Young's Assist Aversion

We all know the jokes. Nick Young would rather shoot than even consider making a pass and when he does pass it is often times to avoid traveling. Sadly these jokes are pretty accurate. Nick’s aversion to passing is even more alarming when broken down and compared.

Nick Young entered the league as the 16th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Wizards. Since his rookie season in 2007-2008 he has 326 three-pointers and 317 assists. This season through 31 games, Nick has a grand total of 36 assists — good for an average of 1.2 per game — compared to his 56 three pointers. Break down his season assist numbers by month and you can see his assist per game numbers aren’t getting any better.

December only had three games in it this season for the Wizards, but in those three games Nick Young had his highest assists per game average by month. . . with two, and even then he had no assists in the season opener vs. New Jersey. The month of January had 18 games for the Wizards, and Nick averaged 1.2 assists per games during the month. In five of those 18 games he had zero assists and in seven others he only had one assist. The good news is that in the January 20th game vs. the Nuggets he tied his season high in assists with four. In ten February games it’s gotten even worse. He’s averaged 0.8 assist per game and he’s had no more than one assist in any of the games this month. He’s had one assist in eight February games and no assists in the other two.

The league is full of high volume shooters and shoot-first players, but let’s compare Nick to two other “notorious” players that fit this into this category:

Recently signed Knicks guard J.R. Smith has had the reputation as an athletic, shoot-first ask questions later, high volume shooter for years. While playing in 79 games with Denver last season he had only 175 assists but that was still 51 more than his 124 three-pointers. In his seven year NBA career he has 904 three-pointers, but has topped a thousand assists with 1,006.

J.R. Smith’s new Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony has a similarly bad rap for being a one-on-one oriented player that is anti-passing. But even he makes Nick Young look bad in the assist department. In Carmelo’s career he’s totaled 490 three-pointers and he nearly quadruples that number with his 1,902 career assists. Even though Carmelo isn’t known for being a deadly sniper from three-point range he’s survived an eight year NBA career as a shoot-first player, and still has nearly four times as many assists as three-pointers.

Nick Young is almost certainly on his way out the door this summer as an unrestricted free agent where he’ll likely become a bench scorer for another team. But even then he’ll need to learn to pass more. He doesn’t need to become Steve Nash, just becoming J.R. Smith would be helpful.

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