Ever since Chauncey Billups was lost for the season on Feb. 6 to a torn left Achilles tendon, the Clippers are a mediocre 9-10, dropping games to Cleveland, Phoenix, New Jersey and Golden State (at home).
It’s always dangerous to link cause and effect, but despite his occasionally free-wheeling shot selection, Billups posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.3 in his 20 games as a starter. And despite reports of his demise as a defender, the Clippers were 4.4 points better defensively when Billups was on the floor.
The Clippers pursued J.R. Smith and had been active in trade discussions for several shooting guards in recent weeks. Price tags for such players have been steep, and in snagging Nick Young from a moribund Wizards squad, the Clippers gave up virtually nothing for a proficient shooter on an inexpensive expiring contract -- DNP case Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick.
Young can shoot the 3-ball, particularly from the corners, where Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro tends to situate his wings in his pick-and-roll, isolation-heavy offense. Young is a 54.5 percent shooter on corner 3s, and his 30 makes from that zone rank him seventh in the NBA.
What Young can’t do much about is addressing the Clippers’ most pressing problem -- their 22nd-ranked defense. His 6-foot-7 frame will make life a little more difficult for opposing wings, who have had a significant height advantage over the Clippers’ defenders, but Young can never be characterized as a stopper. He’s also one of the most gratuitous chuckers of the dreaded long 2-point shot. And his miniscule 6.1 assist rate ranks him 78th of 79 qualified shooting guards -- deep black hole territory.
But on balance, this was an easy call for the Clippers. They have no long-term commitment to Young, who is on a one-year contract. If he can fill Billups’ shoes as a proficient spot-up specialist, good for the Clippers. If not, the Clippers still have Mo Williams as their designated microwave and can punt on Young at the end of the season.