There are only two point guards in the 2017 free agency class that are better (and it’s arguable about one of them) than Jeremy Lin: Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo. Besides the fit with each team, this gives Lin another significant boost heading into the offseason, and another big decision to make.
Conley is the best player, although not the biggest name, among point guards heading into the free agency market. When he’s healthy (and that’s where the warning signs come in), he’s one of the best defensive PGs in the NBA if not the best, and is a smart playmaker who doesn’t try to do things he doesn’t know. He missed 26 games last season with Achilles tendinitis, although it was more serious than anyone thought. He’ll be just 29 when next season begins, but Achilles injuries can be nasty, with a lasting effect.
Conley has played more games in Grizzlies uniform than any other player, but the lure of a bigger market (like New York, maybe?) could make him leave Memphis. Conley is probably going to be looking for a max contract, but I’m not sure he’s worth putting so much money on. Conley isn’t a player who transforms a team. He’s often an upgrade, for sure, especially on the defensive end, but I think a lot of teams are going to be asking for doctor reports before they make a decision on him.
Rondo has been exposed over the last two seasons. He averaged 11.9 points and 11.7 assists per game last season for the Kings, but more than once they were better without him on the floor. Rondo’s inflated assists numbers no longer impress, and while he has improved his 3-point shooting, he still makes less than one three-pointer a game on average, and having a point guard who doesn’t get to the line or make free throws (2.1 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, making 58% of them) is something that’s quite a turnoff to a number of teams. His radiant personality didn’t cause any problems that we know of this season, but his Dallas experience has made him a persona non grata on a number of organizations across the league.
Who else hits free agency among point guards? Deron Williams (if he opts out), Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Matthew Dellavedova, Raymond Felton, Mario Chalmers, Randy Foye, D.J. Augustin, Langston Galloway and Mo Williams (player option). Teams might use some of them as starters, but these are not guys you can count on to be the main playmakers on a team thinking about winning. Williams is injured and older, Lawson looked washed up last season, and the rest are backups at best.
Lin? Good enough to be a starting point guard on a lot of teams in the NBA, although not all of them will see it that way. He averaged 17.5 points and 4.8 assists per game as a starter last season and showed up big whenever he was given the opportunity, especially against good teams (Cleveland, Spurs, Toronto, Boston) and in the playoffs, when Steve Clifford was playing his cards the right way. This was an up & down season for Lin, but there were enough moments of great, smart basketball that a lot of teams can benefit from. There shouldn’t be something standing in his way of finding a spot where he can be a starting point guard, with plenty of ballhandling minutes, like he deserves.