At this stage of the offseason, there are quite a few questions about the Houston Rockets next season, despite the very promising initial outlook. One of those questions is Jeremy Lin and how much will his role with the team change. It’s pretty clear that despite his relative success during his first season with the team, James Harden isn’t going anywhere, and also isn’t the one who is going to have to adapt.
Lin averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game last season for the Rockets, although he looked awful in the postseason, carrying a chest injury that kept him out of two games while he was possibly overwhelmed by the increased intensity from the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging only 4 points and 2 assists per playoff game.
Lin depends on his usage rate, and it dropped from 28.1% in 2011-2012 to 20.8% last season for the Rockets. You expect a starting point guard with 32.2 minutes a night to do better, but that’s impossible with Harden on the floor next to him, and taking up so many of the touches Lin used to have during his short magical stint with the New York Knicks.
But Harden’s is the Rockets’ star player, along with the new arrival Dwight Howard. It doesn’t matter that in the long run, giving the ball to Lin and making Harden more of an off-the-ball scorer might be the better thing for the team offensively, as a few games during the second half of the season showed us. Lin doesn’t try to take too much on himself, and spreads it much better than Harden, who can fall in love with taking tough jumpers a bit too much.
Lin never found impressive scoring consistency as a spot up shooter; his longest streak of double-figure scoring was 10 games, which happened twice. His best period was probably during early April, finishing the month averaging 17.3 points per game. There was also a short stint of three games scoring over 21 points consecutively.
The bottom line? Lin isn’t going to put up huge numbers for the Rockets. He might turn into a sixth man and get more minutes “alone” on the floor to show a bit of his ball handling dominance and try to impress without Harden next to him, but with Harden playing 38.3 minutes a night, there won’t be many moments like that.
His best chance of avoiding the trading block (Although a trade might be the best thing for him)? Working on his shooting, and more familiarity with James Harden. Lin is going to have to shine in that semi-shooting guard role in order to get the kind of minutes he had last season, because it always seems like Kevin McHale is aching to start giving Patrick Beverley a lot more playing time, as he brings a completely different style and skill set than Lin to the floor – one that doesn’t step on Harden’s toes.
Lin wants to stay in Houston, and Morey said that both Howard and Harden wanted to play with him. Lin should work well with a big man like Dwight Howard, if he’ll consent to being used in the pick & roll more often than he did with the Lakers. But the bottom line is regardless of how different the Rockets may seem as a basketball team, possibly for the better, with Lin calling the shots on the floor, he’s the one who is going to have to get used to playing differently from what he prefers, not James Harden.