The Houston Rockets have two much bigger superstars in terms of their importance on the court than Jeremy Lin, yet the three-year veteran continues to be a cause of much debate, and continuously be one of the players that walk the thin line between being overrated and underrated at the same time.
There’s a huge Lin following, partially, or maybe even mostly, due to his ethnicity. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to get the attention. The big question isn’t whether Lin deserves to be talked about so much, but whether or not Linsanity, his two-week period of becoming a starter and bona fide star for the New York Knicks was a one-time thing.
The New York media loves tearing people down, but it generates positive buzz as well. Lin came out of nowhere, from the deepest realms of D’Antoni’s bench in 2012, producing 7 consecutive wins and averaging 27.2 points per game during his first five games as a starter. The Knicks aren’t used to winning, and with Anthony and Stoudemire injured at the time, Lin had enough room around him to capture the star spot.
Things changed pretty quickly. His finish to the season wasn’t as strong – D’Antoni got fired, Carmelo Anthony returned from injury and it was his team again. Lin is the kind of player who needs the ball in his hands to be at his most useful, and it’s hard being that kind of point guard with Anthony getting all the credit in the world from his head coach.
His first full season as an NBA starter was a little bit of both. Before James Harden arrived, the expectations from Lin weren’t to take the team to the playoffs, but to be the team’s leading player and take the next step in order to become a leading point guard in the NBA.
Enter James Harden, and everything changed. Lin finished the season averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists, once again finding himself without the ball plenty of times, and in this strange state of slightly disappointing many in his overall production, but probably not getting enough chances to prove his worth.
Taking a look at the Rockets’ games without Harden (Lin didn’t miss a single game last season) doesn’t fully answer the question of whether or not he can be one of the top point guards in the NBA, but there’s no doubt his numbers would be greatly improved if he had a shooting guard in a more traditional sense playing next to him.
Lin had one huge game without Harden, scoring 38 points with 7 assists in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but he also had unmemorable 14 and 15 point games in losses to the Clippers. Against the Orlando Magic Lin had a 19 points, 11 assists performance. The Magic didn’t look like anything remotely formidable during the second half of last season, but there was no doubt that the Rockets looked better as a basketball team, at least on offense, if you’re looking for team-basketball and not the style the NBA is so often criticized for.
Lin is going to be a third or fourth scoring option on the Rockets next season, with Chandler Parsons probably getting his share of shots, making the most of the attention Howard and Harden are going to get. Lin? The answer to the question of what’s his true value won’t be answered unless he’s put in the right situation, which on this team might be as a sixth man, and especially when James Harden isn’t on the floor, giving us a better sense of how good he is as a point guard.