3. Jeremy Lin
Barring a last-minute innovative move by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey (which Morey has proven more than capable of pulling off), the Rockets are almost certainly going to lose Austin Rivers in free agency. Rivers did the Rockets a favor by signing a veteran-minimum contract in 2019, despite getting higher-priced offers elsewhere, and has a player option that he will almost certainly be exercising.
Rivers is set to make $2.3 million in 2020-21 under his current contract, and he’s bound to land offers of more than twice that amount. If the Rockets lose out on Rivers, they could replace him with a cheaper option, who has experience with playing alongside Harden and also has an NBA title under his belt.
Jeremy Lin was brought in to the Space City in 2012, following the Linsanity movement that made him one of the most popular players in the league. Lin proved to be a solid option for the Rockets, but never lived up to the star potential that he flashed with the New York Knicks.
But Lin is a downhill guard who can drive to the basket, and/or create offense for others. The 2019 NBA champion has career averages of 4.3 assists, and even averaged 5.8 assists per 36 minutes during the 2018-19 season.
Like Rivers, Lin is a mediocre 3-point shooter, as he has a career 3-point average of 34.2 percent from deep, which is eerily similar to Rivers’ 34.8 percent. Lin can also hold his own on the defensive end, as he’s amassed 10.8 defensive win shares through nine seasons, compared to Rivers’ 7.1 defensive win shares through eight seasons.
Lin thrived in a Sixth Man role for the Rockets in 2013-14, as he averaged 12.5 points on 35.8 percent from deep, which was a career-best at the time. Lin also helped extend the Rockets’ season during the 2014 opening-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, as he posted 21 points on 40 percent from deep and 68 percent true shooting in Game 5.
Lin had the hot hand, forcing Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale to insert him in the starting lineup over Patrick Beverley, and he scored 11 points in the second-half, which was second behind Dwight Howard’s 16 points.
Lin went unsigned in the 2019-20 season, which forced him to play in the Chinese Basketball Association. The Rockets could easily ink Lin to a non-guaranteed deal or a partially-guaranteed deal, which could be a big win if they do wind up losing Rivers to free agency.
Next: No. 2