Earlier this week, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale made headlines when he suggested that he may play Jeremy Lin off the bench. It’s a great idea, and one that fans who regularly watch Houston play have been pushing for months now, so it really should have been met with effusive support.
Lin is much better served taking on a sixth man role where he will have more freedom to operate. Conversely, Patrick Beverley is a prototypical glue guy who can come in, play some good defense, and not need to take any touches away from the likes of James Harden and Dwight Howard. Plus, whereas in most situations you need the point guard to be able run the offense, Harden has proven both during his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder and last season with the Rockets that he’s more than capable of doing that.
Again, Lin being moved to the bench and Beverley being inserted into the starting lineup should be met with unwavering, unanimous support.
So why hasn’t it been?
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Here are the facts: Harden had the ninth highest usage rate in the NBA last year. Lin wasn't even in the top 50. That disparity goes a long ways in explaining why his points, assists and field goal percentage dropped last year, despite him seeing an additional six minutes per game. Points, the efficiency with which you obtain those points, and your ability to distribute the ball mistake-free are impacted by whether or not you’re in the flow of the game. If the guy you’re sharing your backcourt with is hogging the vast majority of touches, you’re not going to get into a flow.
And let’s be clear on more thing: Harden is not Kobe Bryant. Bryant is a far superior scorer to Harden, and Harden is a much better ball-handler/distributor than Bryant. You can put Bryant beside a talented point and it might work because he can score in so many different ways; the same doesn’t hold true for Harden.
It’s beyond debate at this point that starting Beverley and letting Lin take a Manu Ginobili role off the bench is exactly what the Rockets need. Whether or not McHale actually has the guts to make this move remains to be seen, though.