One postseason in which he wasn’t at his healthiest, and people are treating Jeremy Lin like a marginal player who should be sitting at the end of the bench. True, he isn’t James Harden and never will be, but the Houston Rockets have a very good point guard on their hands that they will benefit greatly from if they forget about trading him and push towards making him feel more comfortable on the court.
There’s an interesting theory about the Rockets being a better team if Lin was the one handling the ball. It’s true, to a degree. What the Rockets might gain from putting the ball constantly in Lin’s hands (his usage rate was 20.8% last season, compared with Harden’s 29%, ninth in the NBA) is still undetermined. The Rockets did quite well in the few games Harden wasn’t on the floor, but their wins came against less than impressive opposition.
Lin can’t score like Harden, and he isn’t as good of a shooter. But he can create scoring situations for himself and others, even if he doesn’t draw defenders to him like flies, and doesn’t have the upper body strength to take him to the line every time he gets contact on the way to the basket.
But the Rockets have the roles of Harden and Lin reversed, to a degree. Harden would be a much better spot up shooter than Lin – a career 37% shooter from beyond the arc, falling last season to 36.8% due to him taking more than six shots per game. In comparison, Lin is a 33.2% shooter from three, and it seems that the 3.1 attempts he took each game last season were a bit too much for his own taste.
Lin is probably working on improving his “Kyle Korver” skills this offseason, among other things. Working on his defense is another issue, although he isn’t as bad at it compared to the general perception. He’s not going to stop Russell Westbrook driving to the basket, but he’s not exactly a guaranteed two-points no matter who he’s guarding, and is a much better off-the-ball threat for a steal than most give him credit for, averaging 1.6 last season.
Is Lin going to have some sort of breakout season, compared to a breakout month he had with the Knicks? Probably not. With Dwight Howard on the team, the ball might be even less in the hands of Lin as before, although it might change his function on the court towards what he’s naturally intended to do – be a point guard and spread the ball between James Harden, Howard and Chandler Parsons, whenever he is open.
Lin is better than the 13.4 points, 6.1 assists he put up last season. He just needs the right role in order to show that. While there might not be enough room in this backcourt for him to be in full control of the ball, the Rockets are going to look slightly differently than they did last season, and Lin should be a part of Kevin McHale’s learning process as a head coach, and finding out that the way Lin was used most of the time last season was wrong for the player individually and quite a few times bad for the team.