Is Jeremy Lin good enough to be a starting point guard on a team that expects to contend for the NBA title? Surrounded by premier talent like Dwight Howard and James Harden, both arguably the best in their position heading into the 2013-2014 NBA Season, it might be the perfect time to find out.
Being great or far from it doesn’t make you NBA-championship material. Being on the right team, eventually, is what matters, and filling the right role on it as well. Jeremy Lin still hasn’t reached that elite level when he’s mentioned as a point guard that’s among the best in the NBA, or the best player on his team. But playing and being surrounded by this kind of talent might help him get there while getting less attention and comparisons to the three or two weeks of Linsanity.
And maybe that has been Lin’s biggest problem during his first season as a full-time starter in the league. Everyone keeps expecting that 25 points, 8 assists guy every night, and it simply won’t happen. It’s because the guys who can pull off those kind of numbers and still be contributing to the team instead of dragging it down can be counted with the amount of fingers a person has on one hand, and the fact that Lin isn’t expected to be that kind of player by his team, which is the most important factor.
There is the issue of playing to his role, but the arrival of Dwight Howard might adjust James Harden’s significance on the team. As Justin Kubatko on ESPN Insider pointed out, the Rockets have been too reliant on Harden’s ability last season. It’s easy to spot just by watching their games and especially the last month of the season, but it also shifts in effectivity during games: Harden’s effective field goal percentage was .515, but in the fourth quarter and overtime that figure dropped to .465.
Lin might not be getting a chance to score more than the 13.4 points he averaged last season, but he might get a chance to be much more of a point guard. Playing next to Harden means a lot less time with the ball,and becoming somewhat of a spot up shooter in the process. Lin shot 33.9% from beyond the arc, which is passable, but a team needs someone who does a better job in that aspect – someone whose is a lot more comfortable in that role.
The arrival of Howard means he needs someone to feed him the ball in the paint, and the Rockets are going to need to space the floor more than they did last season. When the spacing and the ball movement was working well, the Rockets were at their best. It gave Harden the chances to drive inside without three players hanging on him, and made everyone a lot more efficient.
Lin is the better passer and floor reader than Harden, while Harden is also the better shooter. With the chances of lineups that include both Asik and Howard together, having the team’s two best shooters, which are Chandlers Parsons and James Harden geared up to catch and shoot instead of handling the ball, should mean Lin might have more time doing what he’s supposed to do.
How does that make the Rockets title contenders? It’s about the talent and depth they have. There are deeper teams in the West, but their duo of Harden and Howard just might be the best in the league if everything clicks. As for Lin and Parsons, there are worse number 3 and 4 guys to have if you’re looking to succeed. The first step will be figuring out what everyone does best on this upgraded squad, and if Kevin McHale succeeds in that, he should have himself a team good enough to contend for the West and even more.