We don’t like to overreact and over analyze (I hope) but this is a slow news day, so it’s not too bad of an opportunity to try and see if Jeremy Lin shooting a little bit better and getting a few more minutes which is rare on this Charlotte Hornets run, means his standing within the rotation and team hierarchy is any different.
Short answer? Probably not. While Lin is finally back above the 40% field goal shooting in the last couple of games (shockingly, he hasn’t shot better than 40% from the field in consecutive games since January) and he did get 26 minutes, his most since Courtney Lee made his debut, the Hornets still have something that’s working quite well for them, and in that system, Lin right now is playing fourth fiddle among the guard-wing bunch that includes Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum (both pretty much untouchable) and Lee.
Lee, in 11 games with the Hornets, is averaging 28.7 minutes and 8.8 points per game. he shoots well in a limited offensive role (48.7% from the field, 44.4% from beyond the arc) and his average +/- is 3.0. The Hornets are 9-2 since he arrived as a way to bail them out after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got injured again. The change didn’t stop the momentum were already on before his arrival. He simply fell right into the shooting guard role he played for Memphis, moved Batum to the Small Forward for good and, well, be it the reason or not, the Hornets are 37-28, en route to making the postseason for only the third time in 12 years.
Lin during that time has struggled. He’s averaging only 22.8 minutes while scoring 10.5 points, but his shooting is where the problem is, and has been all season long: Just 36.7% from the field during that run, and OK but not spectacular 34.8% from beyond the arc. Lin is trying to get that shooting form change to work, but he’s also being realistic, which means playing to his strength: Attacking the rim and going to the line. He’s averaging 6.6 free throw attempts per 36 minutes in the last 11 games, making 89.1% of them. His +/- is a +4.1 in the last 11.
What’s the point of this comparison? There doesn’t always have to be. Lin is a better offensive player than Lee, and despite the perception, is just as good of a defender. But players like Lin, who thrive when they get as much of the ball as possible, also get cold and struggle when their rhythm is disrupted. Lee is used to being a 3 & D player who needs to pick his spot and wait for his touches. Right now, in Clifford’s eye, that makes him more useful and slightly more valuable than Lin.
While the Hornets have made the most of a soft spot in their schedule, they’ve shown in the last couple of games there’s more to them than Walker hitting the hottest shooting form of his life. Faster basketball seems to work for them (and Lin as well), which might be carrying on with another home game, this time against the Dallas Mavericks, who have lost their last five. With exactly one month to go until the end of the season, the Hornets don’t have a particularly difficult stretch to fear, although 10 of their next 17 games are on the road. The playoffs should be there at the end of the road, and by then, the Hornets need to figure out if what’s been working for them now is enough when a playoff series beings, something their head coach isn’t too experienced in.