There’s nothing wrong with being a bench player who gives about 15-20 minutes a night, but Jeremy Lin wants to be and can be a starting point guard in the NBA, but it’s getting clearer and clearer that playing for the Houston Rockets under Kevin McHale and next to James Harden isn’t that beneficial for him, and probably for the team.
As tragic as it might be to break up the most romantic bromance in the NBA, Chandler Parsons will get on fine without Lin sitting next to him on the bench. The Rockets have shown most of this season and through the playoffs that the kind of basketball Jeremy Lin thrives in isn’t what they’re committed to.
James Harden is the star, the anchor, the facilitator, the point guard, everything. Kevin McHale said so himself after the opening loss in the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the Rockets travel back to OKC, hoping to steal a game on the road and make it 2-3, hoping to avoid elimination. Lin is still a question mark heading into the game, but when you look a bit further ahead into the future, his place should be somewhere else.
Lin and the Rockets played quite well in a few games James Harden wasn’t present. Team basketball, based on motion and spacing might not sell tickets as much as individual stars do, but if Lin gets to play next to an efficient and disciplined shooter, who doesn’t try to take over the game on his own, all of his good qualities, both as a passer and as a scorer, not limited to being a spot-up, catch and shoot type of scorer (not his strongest quality), come out.
Yes, Lin isn’t the greatest defender in the world, but it’s something that can improve, and a smart head coach can work on to mask and hide. The Rockets as a team aren’t strong defensively in any case, without a single player you can point out to be a defensive stopper or someone who can shut down the paint while the perimeter remains quite leaky.
It’s OK for the Rockets to give up on Lin, or at least seek to trade him this summer, while they look to make a big splash in the free agency market. Lin is due to make $16.6 million over the next couple of years, and for someone who doesn’t fit the system (saying Kevin McHale has a system is a compliment he doesn’t deserve. System = give the ball to James Harden and hope something good happens) that a lot of money to be paid.
Patrick Beverley might not be as good of a player, but he seems to be more comfortable in a disorganized kind of group that simply waits for Harden to slash into the paint, hoping that he decided to find an open man on the outside.
Lin, if you take a look at certain periods in his short career, is capable of playing like an All-Star point guard and put up big numbers. Not consistently, but he has a better chance to do it in a team that isn’t built around a ball-hogging guard. There are a few around the NBA that might suit him better than the Rockets, and players that will suit the Rockets better than Lin does as an expensive starting point guard. Once they’re out of the playoffs, it should be time to address that issue as well.