After a year without playoff basketball, Jeremy Lin, joining the Charlotte Hornets, is on a team that expects to make it to the postseason and establish itself as a second-tier “power” in the Eastern conference.
Lin hasn’t had much playoff success so far in his career. He helped the Knicks get there in 2012, but was injured during their short playoff run. He was also injured in the 2013 postseason, playing in just four games as the Rockets lost to the Thunder. He was healthy in 2014 but often ignored by James Harden and Kevin McHale, a duo that managed to squander home court advantage with the hero ball that was so characteristic of the Rockets in that season.
Zach Lowe wrote an interesting piece about the Hornets just over a week ago about the problem of mediocrity in the NBA, and the Hornets’ struggle of moving up in the world. Personally, I’m one of those who prefers to see a team trying to win games than tank and simply base all of its future on ping pong balls falling in the right order, but obviously, a lot of NBA general managers believe in the method of simply hoping everything is alright.
The Hornets did go in that direction after Michael Jordan took that team apart. It helped him build towards landing an impact free agent in Al Jefferson and in 2014, make the playoffs for only the second time since the franchise joined the NBA (the Bobcats, not the Hornets), although the team did get the history of the original Hornets which played in Charlotte from 1988 to 2002.
And how are the Hornets’ chances of making the playoffs looking this season? Last season, when everything began, they looked like a team ready to improve from just being a first round team. But they misjudged the effect releasing Josh McRoberts would have. They overvalued Lance Stephenson. And there was obviously the injuries factor, which kept nibbling away at the team during the season.
The frontcourt looks good. Jefferson, if healthy, is a solid option on the post and to play pick and roll with, although he could do better than the 0.98 points per possession he had as a roll man last season. Jeremy Lin thrives in pick and roll situations, but his 0.83 points per possession as a p&r ball handler could use a little boost. However, last season was a uniquely crappy situation for Lin, and most players involved with the Lakers. There’s depth, with Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes and Tyler Hansbrough. Not elite talent, but decent players, with Kaminsky and maybe Hawes finally being able to help the team stretch the floor.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Nicolas Batum arrival impacts the team. Will we see bigger lineups? With Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor at the same time? That means Lin begins as a backup to both guard positions. That might be the more likely scenario. Taking the floor with Jeremy Lamb and at least two more players who can stretch the floor could be excellent for Lin, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We still don’t know what lineups Steve Clifford has in his mind regarding the newly formed team in front of him.
Playoffs? It’s fair to expect it. Beyond that? Too many unknowns, and obviously things can develop weirdly during a season, for good and bad. The Hornets look different than last season, probably better, but they’ll be a work in progress for a while, trying to figure out who is holding the reins and running this team during games. Lin has a shot at becoming that man but as always, it’s not always up to him, and he’ll have to adapt to a new offensive system for the third time in three seasons, which can’t be easy.