It was otherwise a shitty, forgettable NBA Finals series, but at least it produced this fascinating outcome: Nick Young (!) joins fellow Cinnamon Challenge hero and former Wizards knucklehead JaVale McGee (!!) as an NBA champion. The sheer improbability of Nick Young finding a role on a championship team was not lost on the man himself, who after the game reflected upon his journey with characteristic silliness:
Bringing in Nick Young really was a cosmic brain move by Warriors general manager Bob Myers. Young bombed out of a short stint with the Clippers after the Wizards traded him away in a package with McGee in 2012, then played a forgettable season on the last pre-Process Sixers team, in 2013. As a Laker he saw the demise of Mike D’Antoni and the pitiful end of the Steve Nash era, then spent a couple seasons blissfully putting up empty calorie stats on the extended Kobe Bryant farewell tour. His closest brush with real NBA significance during that stretch came when rookie teammate D’Angelo Russell effectively had himself exiled from the Lakers for revealing Young’s romantic infidelity. That Young seemed wholly unaware of and unconcerned with the trajectory of his career made him a curiosity, and the subject of vaguely cruel, ironic celebration on basketball Twitter, to such a degree that Zach Lowe once used his podcast to scold Young’s followers.
To Young’s enormous credit, his performance last season, under Luke Walton, reminded the world that he was once thought of as a legitimate two-way prospect with knockdown shooting ability, and it was enough, in the end, to get him a cheap one-year deal as a reclamation project with the defending champs. It was never a perfect fit. Young is a, hmm, distractible team defender, and let’s just say that passing, which defines Golden State’s relentless offense nearly as much as its three-point shooting, has never been part of his deal. The numbers say Young wasn’t especially productive as a member of the Warriors—his scoring efficiency was about average, and the Warriors’ net rating was about seven points per hundred possessions better with him off the floor in the regular season—and the effort the other Warriors had to put into directing him around on defense was substantial, but that’s not why we’re here. Nick Young—the Nick Young—played big, important minutes in every Warriors win in the Western Conference Finals, and he played meaningful rotation minutes in the first two games of the Finals, and by God he earned himself a championship ring. Also this delightful smile and that big full bottle of champagne:
These playoffs were funny. The conference finals and Finals saw Nick Young, JaVale McGee, J.R. Smith, and Gerald Green playing big roles on important teams making non-fluky runs to within grasping distance of an NBA title. If you’d predicted that four years ago your friends would’ve exchanged worried glances and called your mom. And now Nick Young is a champion! What a world.