There are two very different schools of thought regarding how Jeremy Lin performed during his inaugural campaign with the Houston Rockets.
The 24-year-old’s fans will point to the fact that his stats dipped ever so slightly from where they were when he played for the New York Knicks, and note that the minor decline can clearly be attributed to the fact that he had people taking touches away from him as well as the fact that they came over the course of an entire season.
Lin’s critics, however, will point to the fact that he was only around for four playoff games, and that he averaged four points, two assists and two turnovers per game when it mattered most. They’ll also reiterate the fact that his contract becomes more and more of a burden with each passing season, and that his efficiency had an inverse relationship to the amount of minutes he played with James Harden on the floor. Seeing as Harden isn’t going anywhere at any point in the foreseeable future, that may pose something of a problem.
The reason why Harden and Lin weren’t the greatest of matches is because they’re both guys whose productivity is directly linked to their usage rate. Whereas good shooters can remain vital contributors regardless of whether their usage decreases or not, ball handlers, like Lin and Harden, need the rock to be at their most dangerous. As Harden took the ball away from Lin, Lin became increasingly less effective because he tried to acquiesce to that gameplan as opposed to playing to his strengths.
When it comes to where all parties involved go from here, much as is the case with the general opinion of Lin’s first season with Houston, there are two differing schools of thought.
The glass half-full one is: Lin probably worked on his shooting this summer; he’ll be more familiar with Harden on the second go-round; and Kevin McHale will finally learn how to balance the totally complementary styles of Lin and Patrick Beverley.
The more cynical one is: Everything will be exactly the same. Harden will continue to take touches away from Lin; the addition of Dwight Howard will result in everyone’s usage percentage going down, including Lin’s; banking on Lin suddenly becoming a deadly shooter when he’s given no indication that he’s capable of becoming one is a pipe dream; Beverley will slowly replace Lin, not simply fill out his weaknesses.
If you subscribe to the first assumption – you’re good. Everything will work out fine. The Rockets will win a championship this year. Lin will be Finals MVP. However, if you’re more inclined to buy into the latter theory, then something’s got to give.
As mentioned a couple of days ago, everyone besides only the most delusional of delusional folks has heard that the Rockets are trying to move Lin. The only hang-up at this point is the lack of takers for his and Omer Asik’s services. That hang-up is precisely why Daryl Morey came out this week and said he’s not trying to trade either. It’s not because he isn’t actually trying to move them, it’s because he’s seeing that’s there aren’t too many takers, and he doesn’t want to burn bridges in the very possible event that there is no deal to be made.
At the moment, there are two great fits for Lin out there: the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats. In that order.
The Pistons are in the middle of a rebranding of sorts after temporarily becoming the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NBA, and they’ve already made a big splash this summer by signing Josh Smith. Lin would be a fantastic option at point for them, and he would love playing with Detroit because the only guy messing with his usage would be Smith. Plus, the growth he’d likely experience under Chauncey Billups is immeasurable.
So, what’s the problem then? Well, the problem is what would go back the other way. Houston is in the hunt for a title, they’re not going to just give Lin up for nothing. They need something useful for their polarizing young guard, and the Pistons don’t have much to offer.
Similarly, the Bobcats would be a solid landing spot for Lin. He’d obviously have less freedom to operate because Charlotte has more perimeter players to challenge him than Detroit does, but he’d still probably be able to quickly become the face of that mostly forgettable group. Again, though, the problem is what Houston would get in return. The Bobcats simply don’t have assets that are all that appealing – which is sort of why, despite a lot of big trade talk (including a possible Harden acquisition, if you recall), they’ve never actually done much of anything on draft nights.
At the end of the day, any deal for Lin’s (and Asik’s, unless he is sent to the Atlanta Hawks) services will likely have to involve a third team. It would basically be: Lin to Bobcats/Pistons, worthless garbage from Bobcats/Pistons to mediocre team preparing to rebuild, pass-first point guard from mediocre team preparing to rebuild to the Rockets. If Morey is able to put something together, it’ll look like that.