Nick Young trade fills Clippers’ needs

The Los Angeles Clippers’ season took a worrisome turn almost six weeks ago. It’s taken them all this time to finally find a solution. 

The acquisition of 6-foot-7 shooting guard Nick Young in a three-way deal with the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets won’t fully erase what ails the Clippers, who are just 9-10 since the Chauncey Billups injury, but it’s going to give them a much-needed scoring boost. 

Will Young help the team overcome the loss of Billups, who went down with a torn left Achilles tendon on Feb. 6 and is out for the season? Don’t count on it. 

Young is a capable scorer and a solid 3-point shooter, but the Clippers are still missing the steady hand, veteran presence and big-shot reliability of Billups. They won’t get it back this season, so in the meantime Young will provide them with numbers: a 16.6 scoring average, 40.6-percent accuracy from the field and 37.1-percent from 3-point range.

The trade from Washington to LA represents a homecoming for Young, 26, who played at USC and Cleveland High in Reseda. To get him, the Clippers sent forward Brian Cook and a future second-round draft pick to the Wizards, who shipped center JaVale McGee and forward Ronny Turiaf to Denver. The Nuggets sent power forward Nene to the Wizards.

“This is just a great feeling,” Young told the South Bay Daily Breeze. “I can’t even tell you how excited I am. To be coming home and to be playing on a great team like the Clippers, it doesn’t get any better than that.” 

The Clippers didn’t have to give up much to get Young. Cook lost his shooting touch early this season and had been languishing on the bench for some time. He played in just 16 games and averaged 1.9 points on 22.4-percent shooting. He was dreadful from long distance, missing on 22 of 27 3-point attempts. 

“I’m up out of here,” Cook told the Los Angeles Times. “I wish the Clippers well. It’s part of the business. I’ll go work hard for the Wizards.” 

Young, who can also play small forward, gives the Clippers’ backcourt something it hasn’t had all season — length. Point guard Chris Paul is 6 feet tall, off-guard Randy Foye is 6-foot-4 and backups Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe are 6-foot-1. Billups, who played shooting guard until he was injured, is 6-foot-3. 

It’s likely Young will eventually take over the starting guard position opposite Paul and force Foye back to the bench. Foye scored a season-high 24 points last week against the New Jersey Nets but had just three against the Boston Celtics on Monday and five against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. 

As Thursday’s trade deadline approached, it appeared the Clippers were going to stand pat and wait until the offseason to make additions. All of their key moves were already made before the start of the season. They signed free-agent forward Caron Butler, claimed Billups on waivers and traded for Paul, who has elevated them to contender status. 

Those three players, plus Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, made the Clippers one of the Western Conference’s strongest entries. But the loss of Billups was immeasurable. Since he went down, the Clippers haven’t won more than two games in a row and have lost several close games. 

Now, as they approach the last month and a half of the regular season, they have a scorer who can help take the offensive burden off Paul and Griffin. 

Young won’t make Clippers fans forget Billups, but he can give them something they need right now: points.