Houston Rockets: Why Jeremy Lin Had an Albatross Contract
By Brett David Roberts
May 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) during the fourth quarter in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had some moves to make in the offseason. Unfortunately, none of the major free agents matriculated to Space City, leaving the Rockets with empty hands after peddling the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, to the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.
While the loss of Asik may hurt, Lin’s trade is definitely a case of addition by subtraction. Many Lin fans felt that he gave the Rockets a better chance at winning, but there’s no evidence to back that claim. The Rockets posted a .656 winning percentage with Lin starting and a .646 winning percentage for the season.
Having Lin start made no difference, and was not an upgrade at the point guard position at all for a team that had just made a mistake in letting Kyle Lowry walk to Toronto.
Instead of Lowry, a near All-Star, the Rockets were saddled with a huge contract only surrounded by lots of question marks. Could Lin produce at the level which he did during the “Linsanity” streak with the New York Knicks. Short answer: Of course not.
Lin is owed $14.8 million from the Lakers this year to play mediocre basketball. After this season, the Lakers will shed that salary and give themselves a little wiggle room.
No one considers this a move to upgrade the roster, since the Lakers are out of contention. Lin’s contract is leverage, but not what Daryl Morey wanted; he needed the cap space to go after free agents, a testament to Lin’s colossal disappointment over the last two seasons.
He’s now on his second team in three seasons since leaving the Big Apple. And it doesn’t surprise many.
Jul 24, 2014; El Segundo, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak introduces Jeremy Lin during a press conference at Toyota Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The worst part about Jeremy Lin’s game is his excessive number of errant passes and turnovers. Much of this is due to his poor fundamentals, which include jumping before knowing whether to take a shot or pass. Another is his inability to go left. These fatal flaws account for Lin ranking 46th among point guards in assist to turnover ratio.
In Lin’s 32 starts (excluding his four minute game), he only had a better assist to turnover ratio than the opposing point guard in seven games out of 32. In 10 of those games, he forced one turnover or less from the opposing point guard. In six of those 10 games, he forced no turnovers at all. That happens to be incumbent point guard Patrick Beverley’s calling card.
Many will counter that Lin is a great scoring point guard, but it’s simply not true. Last season in his starts he allowed 16 points per game while averaging 15.3 points per game. He also shot 29.7 percent from the paint (outside the restricted area), due to an inability to drop short range shots rather than go all the way to the basket. He is the anti-Tony Parker.
When Lin started at shooting guard the Rockets were 1-2.
That small sample size is hardly enough to prove he’s incapable of playing the 2-guard position, but in those games, he was outscored in two of the three. This has a lot to do with his average shooting ability from three-point range.
He knocked down 35.8 percent from the arc last season, which would be acceptable if he hadn’t under 22 percent from distance in the last two playoff appearances. His career average is 34.3 percent.
All of this adds up to a very average player. Lin’s PER was 14.3 which is under 15, the league standard average. But does a team really want to wager $25 million over three seasons for a guy who is merely replacement level at best?
Apr 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
And that’s the short story of Lin. He’s vastly overpaid, and he really only has value to major markets who can exploit his popularity. It stands to reason that is the only selling point for the Lakers in having made that trade. It will increase merchandise sales and drive some cult Lin fans to support the team in an era it has struggled in.
Morey continues to engage in talks to obtain a point guard. He knows that Lin wasn’t the answer, and Patrick Beverley is just a stop gap until the Rockets can obtain the point guard that would best fit with Dwight Howard. When Howard joined the Rockets, Hakeem Olajuwon said the Lin-Howard pick and roll would be deadly.
Unfortunately, it helps to be able to right or left when coming off the pick; and Lin is mortally weak with his off-hand. He’s really only good for occasional penetration, where is then only good if he gets directly to the rim. He’s found ways to cover his slow lateral foot speed, but a player in his prime shouldn’t be dealing with defensive disadvantages to the point Lin is.
Lin is just 26 years old, but it’s highly dubious we ever see a return to the Linsanity that drove his fans to become insane.
Statistics Sources: Basketball-Reference; ESPN; NBA.com