Jeremy Lin’s ability to polarize fans is arguably as impressive as his basketball skill set. Mind you, this is a guy who, despite his obvious talent, has put together exactly one month of consistent, undeniably steady basketball. That’s not to say he is incapable of playing well for longer than that, he probably is. He just so happens to continuously land in situations that aren’t ideal for him. It happened with the New York Knicks and, clearly, it happened again with the Houston Rockets.
By any honest assessment, Lin had something of an up-and-down year with the Rockets last season. His totals were down marginally from what he did with the Knicks, but seeing as they were put up over the course of a full season, they went some ways in reaffirming that what he did in New York wasn’t a fluke. In that regard, if you think about it, even though his first season with Houston didn’t go according to plan, it can be considered successful.
The problem with this seemingly unsustainable marriage between Lin and the Rockets is that, for all intents and purposes, his game is too much like James Harden’s. They both need the ball to be dominant. Neither is a particularly effective defender. Both are turnover prone (Harden averaged 3.8 per game; Lin averaged 2.9 per game.) And since Harden is obviously the better scorer, passer and playmaker, Lin’s role with the team is somewhat questionable.
Unfortunately, Lin’s inherently polarizing nature has blinded folks to the fact that a trade will probably be made – should one become available. Daryl Morey is busy telling everyone who will listen that Omer Asik and Lin aren’t going anywhere, but that’s pretty much all he can say right now. You don’t earn yourself additional leverage by irreparably destroying your relationship with two big money players while you’re trying to move them on the low.
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Make no mistake about it, though, he is trying to move them on the low.
As reported by Bill Ingram last week:
A source with direct knowledge of the situation confirms Rockets working hard to move Jeremy Lin ... very limited interest for teams.
— Bill Ingram (@TheRocketGuy) July 7, 2013
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That didn’t come as much of a shock to anyone but the fans who are too busy adjusting their blinders to face the reality of what’s going on in Houston. Harden and Lin don’t fit together – plain and simple. That doesn’t make either one a bad player, it’s just a byproduct of the system that the team runs and the way they have and will utilize the players on the roster.
What’s more interesting than the fact that Houston will undoubtedly attempt to move Lin before the start of next season is where they can move him. Ingram saying that they have no takers at the moment shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Before delving into where Lin could end up, let’s pause for a moment and address where he definitely won’t go.
Lin will not be a Los Angeles Laker at any point in the foreseeable future. This is a rumor that’s been floating around the web ever since his days with the Knicks, for obvious reasons. The Lakers and Lin are both lightening rods, so it makes sense. Well, at least on a superficial level it makes sense. In reality, however, it makes no sense. If L.A. had wanted Lin, they could’ve had him via a Dwight Howard sign-and-trade. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are too busy saving money for next year to add that contract; plus, they probably realize that, between Kobe Bryant and the superstar-to-be-named later that they’ll inevitably sign, Lin will find himself in the same predicament he’s found himself in over the past two years.
Along the same lines, Lin probably won’t end up with the Hawks either. Although it initially seemed like a reasonably decent place for him to land, they’re really intent on cutting costs right now. If he comes in a package deal with Asik, whom Atlanta clearly covets, then maybe this thing goes down. But at the moment it doesn’t look like it will.
No, what Lin needs right now is a franchise that’s looking for a face, and one that will allow him to dominate the ball at will. That’s when he’s at his most effective.
The Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets and the Detroit Pistons would be absolutely perfect.
The latter squad made a big splash signing Josh Smith, but they still need someone to run the offense. Smith may love to jack up bad shots like a combo guard, but he isn’t a combo guard. Lin is. He would instantly make Detroit’s offense fun to watch and he’d fit in perfectly with a group that’s stacked from a bigs perspective, but is lacking when it comes to impressive guard play.
Charlotte is a less ideal landing spot than Detroit, but it also would be a pretty solid fit for Lin. Although there is a lot of hoopla regarding his contract, who exactly besides Al Jefferson has willingly come to the Bobcats in recent years? They need to make a splashy move of some sort, and Lin dominating the ball here wouldn’t be much of a problem either. From both a PR and basketball standpoint, it makes sense. And whereas Houston clearly always had its sights set on acquiring a big name star, Charlotte’s aspirations are much less lofty. They’ll be satisfied with Lin so long as he produces.
At the end of the day, regardless of where Lin ends up, the Rockets do want to trade him. Fans can delude themselves into thinking otherwise if they want, but that won’t change the facts at hand. One way or another, if there is a move to be made, Morey will make it before the season begins.