Nick Young: Easily the most improved player in 2016-17 thus far

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Nick Young is one of the NBA commodities like JR Smith, like Ty Lawson and like, hell, dare we even say Dennis Rodman? He's the kind of guy that needs to be in the right spot to flourish, or to function at all.

It's no secret he is a bit of an extrovert. He was in a long-term relationship with hip-hop artist (We'll stop short of saying star) Iggy Azalea, very nearly misspelled a tattoo across his back with the words "born reble" instead of rebel, and is known to enjoy the L.A. nightlife.

One would think, therefore, that the bright lights of L.A. are toxic to Young in the same way New York did Smith no favours.

Looking at the last two years of his career would be all the evidence one would need to give that notion any remote kind of credence.

Young arrived at the Staples Center after a rather unspectacular year with the Philadelphia 76ers and proceeded to post a career-high of 17.9 points a game and made a franchise-record seven four-point plays in his debut season with the Purple and Gold.

It went downhill from there though.

Everybody knows Young is a perimeter shooter than can get hot, an when he does, he can be devastating. However, those moments of magic have been too few and far between since his first campaign with the Lakers and Byron Scott all but froze him out last season.

Then he had the meteoric and very public fallout with D'Angelo Russell. The rookie guard filmed Young essentially confessing to cheating on his then-fiancee Azalea and te video leaked.

Every man and his dog thought Young would get traded in the summer or even waived, but not only did new coach Luke Walton see things differently, but Young's attitude changed, too.

"We're teammates. It's been so long, so it's kind of old," Young said told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News regarding his relationship with Russell. "We'll be able to work it out. We've already been working it out. It is what it is. I can't be mad forever."

Young was granted more minutes than any expert would account for in preseason and would go on to be the Lakers' best performer, according to his coach.

"He's playing as well as anyone on our team, if not the best on our team, honestly" - Walton told Drew Garrison of SB Nation back on October 20.

Swaggy P, a player never famed for having a solid defence, was just a catch and shooter to many. But, under Walton, those days are gone.

Young told Spectrum SportsNet also on October 20: “It helps, like I said, I keep harping coach got my back and instilling confidence in me and all of us. "

He echoed those statements on defence too: "I know that’s what keeps me out there. Try my hardest to do what I gotta do out there, really.”

Now, as if to come full circle, he is the starting shooting guard for the new-look Lakers alongside, you guessed it, Russell. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams make up a dangerous second unit, but Young has more than proved his worth for a starting berth.

He is averaging 14.1 points a game, leads the entire league with 96.6 percent from the charity stripe and he is knocking down 37.9 percent of his three-pointers, his best return since his first season in L.A.

Swaggy P has battled back from the brink of obscurity where his stock was at an all-time low to thrive in the up-tempo, floor spacing system that Walton has implemented in L.A. He is, unquestionably, the most improved player of 2016-17 thus far.

Shaquille O'Neal
Magic Johnson
Pau Gasol
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Nick Young
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant

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