Positions in the NBA these days don’t mean as much as they used to. It’s all about the role, not the actual designation of point guard, center or power forward. The Charlotte Hornets don’t have anyone better than Jeremy Lin to be their main ball handler and playmaker. Does it mean he’ll actually be the one playing point guard, and not Kemba Walker?
Lin is in the mix for the starting shooting guard position along with Jeremy Lamb now that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out for probably the season. Initially, the plan was making Nicolas Batum the shooting guard and letting both Lamb and Lin come off the bench in a fast paced, high scoring second unit. And being so vital to how the second unit works might be what keeps Lin on the bench at the start of games.
As we mentioned yesterday and a number of times since Lin signed with the Hornets, it’s less about getting the start and more about getting the minutes; it’s about the head coach trusting him to make the right plays and not bench him at the first hint of a mistake, and to be consistent with the minutes and sections he plays in, hopefully more in the clutch. Not just for Lin’s career but for the Hornets. Lin has proved a number of times over the last three seasons that putting the ball in his hand in the fourth quarter is a pretty good idea.
But assuming Lin is the best passer on this team (he is) and is a better decision maker than Kemba Walker, who is the more talented scorer, why not put the ball in his hands most of the time, and make Walker the guard playing off the ball? We’ve seen in preseason just how great the ball moves with Lin being the man pushing things forward. Walker is improving and adding things to his game, but he’s more inclined to scoring than spreading it out, creating openings for teammates and taking advantage of them. Putting him and Jeremy Lamb in a backcourt together might be getting the game a bit stuck at times.
Walker isn’t a very good 3-point shooter. While Lin is no Kyle Korver, he has improved his shot from the outside every season, and when he’s confident, pulling up from the spot with someone guarding him doesn’t bother him too much. Walker shot just 30.4% from long range last season which is another issue for the Hornets to figure out. In today’s NBA, it’s difficult winning when your main ball handler isn’t too much of an outside threat. Walker’s shot selection helps keep his numbers down as well.
Of the guard trio we mentioned, Walker is the one who is certain of his spot and his minutes. Will it be next to his former UConn teammate or with Lin to start out games? It might not matter that much. However, it’s hard to believe that Lin will take over ball handling roles from Walker for the majority of the time at the beginning of the season. Whether or not that happens depends on how well he does on his new team, but as we’ve learned from his past experiences, also on how fairly his head coach treats him.