It’s hard to see Jeremy Lin staying another season with the Charlotte Hornets. Not that it’s bad there, but it could be much better for him somewhere else, not to mention opting out of his current deal means making a lot more money. So why not mess around a bit with hypothetical free agency scenarios?
A lot of teams have a lot of money available with the salary cap rising to a projected $90 million, unless the owners get their way and make the influx of money affect the salary cap in a more gradual way. Everyone wants to sign Kevin Durant, but besides him, there aren’t that many max-level players out there, at least those leaving their teams. By the way, according to SBNation, Lin is the 66th best free agent in the class (if he opts out), not considering him to be enough of a playmaker to take on a starting point guard role. Never say never about anything. Everywhere is a potential destination. But being a bit more focused, trying to think on teams Lin wouldn’t play for again and situations in which he can’t even dream about starting, we come down to a list that’s a bit smaller than all 30 NBA teams.
Assuming Lin doesn’t want to go anywhere near the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets from bad past experiences (and other reasons) and that he’s not going back to Charlotte, I see eight teams he might be a starter for, although one of them is a bit of a stretch considering how many point guards they have signed for next season. This doesn’t mean he can be a starter on more teams, but without knowing who is getting traded and different directions general managers suddenly turn to, we’ll go based on point guards signed for next season and where Lin falls into all of this.
Lin wasn’t far from being a Dallas Mavericks player in 2015-2016, but ended up going to Charlotte. He’s better than what the Mavs have right now – Deron Williams, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. But with three point guards already signed, do the Mavericks go add another one? This could be a really interesting spot for Lin and also reunites him with Chandler Parsons, but we still don’t know enough about where they’re going in 2016-2017.
One team with plenty of cap space (only $48 million committed to next season) and just one dominant guard signed (Goran Dragic) are the Miami Heat. In theory, why not? Dragic and Lin can both play as point guard and a second guard in some situations. But it’s hard seeing Dwyane Wade not coming back. And Lin might not get the freedom at point guard he’d like on this team, although a sixth man on the Heat isn’t such a bad option, but we’ll stick to starting roles for now.
The Memphis Grizzlies don’t seem like a team that’s in love with creative point guards who love to run wild and play fast paced basketball. But Mike Conley is hitting free agency and the Grizzlies might be headed towards something of a massive overhaul considering their window of opportunity to win a championship with these guys has closed. Still, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are signed for next season, so it may be a while until they can completely make that shift. But right now, the Grizzlies don’t have a point guard for 2016-2017.
Another team that on paper is going to be without a point guard next season are the Sacramento Kings. Now, Rajon Rondo isn’t going to lose the starting job to Lin, but for now he’s a free agent, and if he feels he’s rebuilt his brand this season enough to hit the free agency market with confidence, the Kings could be in the market for a point guard. But this is a risky franchise to go to, often changing coaches, direction and style, which could leave Lin in a difficult situation very quickly if things above his head head in the wrong direction.
Two teams that seem ideal are the Milwaukee Bucks, who don’t have a point guard right now, and were rumored to be interested in Lin at some point, although it’s hard to say how much truth there was to that. Lin could be part of a very talented and interesting young group in Milwaukee, and playing under Jason Kidd could be something that appeals to him too. But maybe the Philadelphia 76ers, if Mike D’Antoni stays there, is the most appealing opportunity of all.
The problem with the Sixers is that they seem to change their mind about where this franchise is going every two weeks. Right now, D’Antoni and Colangelo have more and more power which has translated into wins. The offseason will be interesting and will tell us whether this team is finally trying to win games or remains in tanking purgatory. Lin could get complete freedom at point guard there, but there are a lot of questions surrounding the immediate future and their intentions about winning.
Then there’s the big apple, with both the Knicks and the Nets. The Knicks have Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant signed for next season, but Lin can start over the both of them. But is coming back to where James Dolan ego kinda pushed him out a smart move? Lin can easily start for the Nets too next season, but just like a lot of teams, it’s hard to say where they’re headed in terms of immediate success and whether they’re willing to build a team right for once.
Maybe the ideal spot is wherever D’Antoni goes. For now he’s with the Sixers, but he’ll be linked to the coaching vacancies that generate once the season is over. Unless Lin’s status with the Hornets changed drastically in the next two months, he’s going to free agency again, looking for the best situation possible, not to mention looking for a deal to compensate for the money he lost this season.