After doing some wonderful things with limited playing time, Jeremy Lin is waiting for Steve Clifford to realize that the Charlotte Hornets will benefit in the short and long run if he starts playing his (right now) backup point guard more minutes.
It’s as simple as that. Lin is averaging just 22.6 minutes per game, but is second on the team’s points per minute rate behind Jeremy Lamb. It’s the same with other important metrics: PER, win share per 48 minutes, which comes with the team’s highest usage ratio (26.4%). The problem is Lin isn’t spending enough minutes on the floor, despite the Hornets being 4.5 points better per 100 possession when he’s on the floor compared to his minutes on the bench.
Head coaches, among other things, need to learn from their mistakes. They don’t have to admit it. Clifford can keep saying Kemba Walker is his starting point guard and most important player if he wants. But the facts point to a different direction. And learning, a lot of times, means watching video. And if Clifford and his coaching staff do their due diligence, they’ll see that as they head into their second meeting with the Chicago Bulls this season, their best minutes came when Lin was on the floor.
We saw it in preseason, we saw it in the 130-105 win over the Bulls. Lin gave Chicago, who are still adjusting to life under a new head coach, a lot of problems every time he had the ball. It wasn’t just the much smaller Aaron Brooks that got torched. It was Derrick Rose, E’Twaun Moore and anyone else who tried stopping him. We saw the same thing from Lin in the wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks. It seems that his confidence isn’t shaken up by Clifford yo-yoing him in the first three quarters, and a confident Lin is a very difficult player to deal with from a defensive standpoint.
Lin is posting his best per minute numbers since beginning his NBA career, with 21.1 points per 36 minutes. His shooting numbers aren’t better than before, but he’s changed as a player. He’s looking a lot more for his own shot, getting to the line more than ever before and starting to take advantage of his own advantages with a lot of mismatch opportunities to put up points, not just looking for others, which is difficult on a team with very few players moving without the ball.
Maybe it’s Lin deciding that the way to promote himself is scoring points, although he mostly does it with relatively good shot selection. Not perfect, and he’s had a couple of bad games this season in which he could have made much better choices, but when looking at the big picture, Lin is no longer just the best passer and playmaker on this team; most of the time he might be their best offensive option, period. Passing, finishing, you name it.
His points per minute might drop when he starts getting more time, but it doesn’t matter. Those numbers shouldn’t matter. Lin getting more exposure shouldn’t be what Steve Clifford worries about. He should care only about what makes this team play its best basketball; to win games. Through eight games this season and especially in his last two, helping the Hornets bounce back to .500, it’s been proven time and time again that having Lin on the floor makes the Hornets a better team.