We’re two thirds of the way through with our series of posts about Jeremy Lin, his potential free agency and his fit on different teams. Up next? The Northwest division, with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The interesting thing about the Northwest division, in relation to Lin and other players, is that there’s no major TV market. Lin has played in Golden State (hardly played), New York, Houston and Los Angeles. Last season he was in Charlotte, which might be in the state that has college basketball as an official religion, but it’s still a small market when it comes to its NBA team. Good or bad? Just thought it’s worth mentioning.
We begin with the teams that Lin has no real place on. The Oklahoma City Thunder have Russell Westbrook signed for one more year. That’s about 35 minutes per game of a point guard who loves having the ball in his hand. Even without Kevin Durant, Lin has no room on the Thunder, who do get rid of Dion Waiters’ contract. They might be in the market for a backup point guard and a shooting guard they’re happy with, but it’s not a good place for Lin.
Another team where Lin isn’t going to end up? The Blazers. Portland don’t have a bench, and also $34 million in cap space, but the Damian Lillard – C.J. McCollum backcourt eats up most of the minutes and possessions available. There’s no room for a new starting backcourt player. The Blazers need a backup to these two, and Lin would be fantastic in that role, but it’s not for him: He needs more minutes and more responsibility.
The Denver Nuggets, with Mike Malone as a head coach, make more sense. The Nuggets are pretty empty in the backfield, except for Emmanuel Mudiay. Jameer Nelson is signed on, but he’s irrelevant at this point of his career. D.J. Augustin? He actually did a number on the Hornets this season, but he never sticks around in one place for too long, and will probably bring his ability to score a lot of points and create mayhem for both teams at the same time to a new city. The question here is this: Are the Nuggets committed to seeing through Mudiay becoming a franchise-point guard no matter what? Or are they willing to take down his minutes and give Lin the keys to the offense? If the answer is yes, this could be an interesting, slightly out of the box option for Lin.
On to the Utah Jazz, an option I personally really like. A very good defensive team, that can allow Lin to take more risks on defense and show how good of a ball snatcher he is. Trey Burke isn’t a starting point guard. Gordon Hayward handles the ball, but not all the time, and he’s better without it. Dante Exum? Too many questions marks. Raul Neto shouldn’t be holding anyone back from starting at point guard too. Again, just like with the Nuggets, the question here is whether or not the Jazz are 100% behind Exum and don’t want to try and eat into his minutes. Lin could provide them with creativity they severley lacked on offense too many times, costing them a place in the playoffs, although one more lottery piece for a team that isn’t losing anyone significant isn’t too big of a disaster.
We finish with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Why them? Don’t they have a point guard, signed through the 2018-2019 season? Yes they do. Ricky Rubio is owed $42.6 million over the next three years. He’s only 25, but has been playing pro basketball since he was 14. He might have improved his three point shooting, but he still gets no Respeck from defenses as a shooter. When he’s never finished above 38.1% from the field in a season, it’s understandable. Rubio has great vision and is a very fun player to watch, but Lin would fit right in with a young, talented team, that now also has an excellent head coach. We’ve heard of the Timberwolves thinking about trading Rubio. If it does happen, Minnesota is an obvious destination for Lin.