Jeremy Lin is a classic example of the highs and lows a player can experience when he bursts onto the scene in a way nobody saw coming. Aside from a marginally intriguing showing in the 2010 Summer League against John Wall, few heard or knew about the Harvard product until a series of unfortunate events led to Mike D’Antoni installing him as the New York Knicks’ starting point guard in February of 2012. And just like that, Linsanity was born.
Everyone knows what happened in the aftermath of Lin’s incredible month-long streak; he got injured, entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, was pursued strongly by both the Knicks and Houston Rockets, and ultimately ended up with the latter squad after they gave him a contract that the former refused to match.
Lin’s 2012-13 campaign with the Rockets was a mixed bag. He was one of only two players on the team to play in every single game, and his averages were very similar to what they had been a year earlier. He recorded 13.4 points per game (down from 14.6), 6.1 assists per game (down from 6.2) and did his damage on 44.1 percent shooting (down from 44.6). That being said, his turnovers were down (3.6 to 2.9) and, it is worth noting, the fact that he was able to put these totals together over the course of an entire year is telling.
Did Lin fully live up to expectations last season? As he would be the first to acknowledge: no. However, that has as much to do with a.) health and b.) the fact that Houston didn’t quite know how to play him as it did with his own personal shortcomings.
During his days with the Knicks, it was made abundantly clear that Lin was at his best when he could dominate the ball. When he had to share it with a black hole like Carmelo Anthony, his effectiveness was noticeably reduced. The same goes for when he played with James Harden; both men performed better when the other was off the court.
With Dwight Howard being added to the mix in Houston, Lin’s touches figure to go down even more. And since he isn’t a classic Phil Jackson-style point guard who can run to the corner and wait for an open three, chances are that Lin’s only shot at being successful next year is if the Rockets commit to keeping him in a reserve capacity.
Or, you know, they could just trade him.
While Daryl Morey has continued to insist that the team has no interest in trading away Omer Asik, it’s difficult to take that proclamation seriously. Asik clearly wants to be a starter, and there is no room for him in the starting lineup with Howard on the roster. Along the same lines, just as there are options for where Asik could be moved to before next season begins, there are certain scenarios which would make sense for Lin, too. Not only would the moves benefit Houston, but they’d also benefit Lin, who could then dominate the ball the way he has to in order to be successful.
About three weeks ago, Dan Favale of Bleacher Report wrote a very intriguing piece identifying some potential landing spots for Lin. Essentially he identified four prime contenders for the 24-year-old’s services: the Charlotte Bobcats, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics. The piece is definitely worth a read because he goes into heavy detail for each choice, but it basically comes down to these key points:
Bobcats – Michael Jordan is trying to do, well, something to make Charlotte less of a laughing stock, and as presently constructed the team remains just that. Lin would give this group someone who could run the offense and a name brand player to draw attention to the soon-to-be renamed franchise.
Hawks – Technically this squad added Elton Brand and sort of addressed its low post concerns, but at this stage in his career, Brand isn’t exactly a reliable option. Atlanta expressed interest in bringing Asik in at one point, and if the Rockets decide to package him with Lin, the spending-weary Hawks may end up pulling the trigger.
Pistons – Joe Dumars is working hard to make Detroit relevant again, and while bringing Chauncey Billups back is great from a PR/leadership standpoint, it doesn’t do much to bolster the roster. As noted by Favale, “there are far worse things than watching Lin run pick-and-rolls with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Like watching Rodney Stuckey or Brandon Knight attempting to do it, for instance.” This move makes a whole lot of sense, from both business and basketball standpoints.
Celtics – Boston is in full on rebuilding mode, and it’s not very clear how Rajon Rondo plays into that. The Rockets are in need of a point guard, and Rondo is an ideal pass-first option. That being said, there are some rumors floating around that Howard doesn’t want to play with Rondo – which sort of makes sense given the fact that Rondo is the only guy in the world who could earn a ‘selfish’ label while being a primarily pass-first player.
So, at the end of the day: will Lin get moved? It’s impossible to say for certain. But if all parties involved are smart, they’ll do everything possible to terminate this relationship. It made sense when it materialized, sort of, but it doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s time for a change, and frankly, any of the options listed would be better than things as they presently stand.