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An Optimistic Approach Assessing Jeremy Lin’s Value and Future

By Brett David Roberts
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Much has been made of the Rockets decision to part ways with Jeremy Lin.  This may hurt the team more than GM Daryl Morey realizes.

Morey employs “advanced metrics” as a means for evaluating talent.  This falls short quite often, as players do bring intangibles to the game, but more on that later.

Jeremy Lin may function best in a second unit, at least for now.

Lin’s able to exploit the weaker defender and get his bench mob cooking. Moreover, covering backups has given Lin a chance to develop his lateral footwork on defense. It’s notable that he has improved that facet vastly.

A comparative case is J.J. Redick. His first few seasons he was unable to cover most shooting guards. Now, Redick is more than a capable defender. He chases well off screens. Lin may eventually follow this model, and going to L.A. to be coached by Byron Scott will be able to impart further mentorship to Lin. That’s something Kevin McHale either couldn’t do, or wouldn’t.

Jeremy Lin is not a good ball distributor yet (though he passes very well in transition), and Kobe Bryant will get the lion’s share of the minutes. If Kobe goes down, however, Lin is capable of filling the void.  More likely still, is the possibility that Steve Nash is all but done.  So, taking the point is entirely possible, even likely perhaps…He still has to make better decisions and avoid jumping without knowing what he’ll do. Being able to play off the ball is Lin’s best chance now. Because…

Jeremy Lin gets to the line a lot, and hits them.

Per-36, he has averaged 4.6 free throw attempts per game over his career thus far. It bears mentioning that in his tenure with the New York Knicks, he averaged seven free throws per game.

Receiving a larger role and given the keys to a second unit, and possibly has the chance to even bump Steve Nash out of the starting lineup.  Lin will have a chance to do what he still does very well: finish at the rim and draw fouls.

November 4, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) passes the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers defense during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lin’s triple double last season against the Cleveland Cavaliers (see: video below) was a good capitulation of what he is capable of.

Triple doubles are pretty rare, and it stands to reason that if he hit the boards harder, he’d get far more trip dubs. He’s averaged just 2.6 rebounds per game in his career, and he can definitely improve that and get it closer to his New York level of production.

Lin had just nine games with five rebounds or more. While it really isn’t a point guard’s duty to snag boards, it helps the team immensely if does. That’s why Rajon Rondo gets a lot of triple doubles.

Beyond that, it’s a digression, but chasing down loose balls isn’t kept statistically and that is a point Lin can work on. It gives rise to extra possessions.  Lin has a nose for the ball, and he’s athletic enough to swoop in for some boards.  More trip dubs will follow.

Lin has a high basketball IQ, as a result of just having a great IQ in general.

Harvard graduates are rarely dolts. Lin uses his smarts in a number of ways, and he’s best at anticipating when a defense has an error on its way. He had six games with 3-4 steals last season.

Lin is capable of big games, evidenced by scoring 30-plus points in two contests last season, while he also scored 20 or more seven times. He’s much better with a higher usage rate, and James Harden has taken his teammates out of the offense and game, repeatedly.

When a player is doing well on the boards or defensively, typically the team reward the player with some offensive opportunities. This didn’t happen that often for Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard…and especially Jeremy Lin. While in the last piece, it insinuated he was incapable of being a starter; and maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But the bottom line there is that he has legitimate NBA talent and can thrive if used properly.

Lastly, Lin is a cult classic hero.

He’s an against all odds story book tale, and fans like that. Beyond that, he is very humble, and that’s an endearing trait. There’s a reason there are so many Lin fans, and it is because it goes beyond his play on the court.

How many professional athletes sleep on a friend’s couch because they don’t know their fate as a player? Most sulk.

Lin picked up his chin and continued until he was signed by the Rockets. Even if his contract was a bit bloated, it shouldn’t have mattered because the Rockets still had a chance of contending before Lin and Omer Asik were jettisoned.

The team got weaker at the cost of chasing free agents that were not interested in Houston anyway.

Almost caustically and certainly inconsiderately, the Rockets put up a billboard of Carmelo Anthony wearing Lin’s number 7. That alone tells one how under-appreciated the polarizing star is. If he’s not respected by Rockets brass, he has no reason to give them his blood, sweat and tears.

So, Lin closes this chapter in his life and moves on to a new one with the Lakers. Hopefully, Scott will further instruct Lin and help with his weaknesses, all the while improving his chance of becoming a starter caliber player.

Again, that may not be as a point guard. Lin is 6’3” and that should enable him to play the 2-spot well. Going back to the J.J. Redick example, Redick is 6’4.” Both players can dunk with ease (though I only witnessed one Redick game-dunk in the 2012 NBA playoffs; and no one noticed really).  Both struggled defensively early in their respective careers. Lin has several years to improve his defense, decision making and rebounding.  If Redick can do it, Lin can, too.

If he does all three things, he’ll ascend to the elite level that most are already putting him on. It’s probably due to the “eye test.”

Lin’s stats don’t tell the whole story, but when he makes a flashy move or a great pass, it shows the potential that has yet to be released (sans the breakout in New York). Lin moves on, the Rockets move on, and for Lin’s sake, we have to hope he knows how to utilize a talent that just has yet to reach its full potential.

Good luck, Mr. Lin.

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