No one is arguing that Jeremy Lin still has a way to go before he becomes an elite point guard in the NBA, but there’s a very good chance that with a different head coach (Kevin McHale) that doesn’t completely prefer the wrong player to lead his team (James Harden), the Houston Rockets would be with three All-Star players instead of just two.
Jeremy Lin finished fourth in the backcourt voting, which means he wasn’t that far from starting in the Western conference lineup thanks to the huge support he has from those who simply follow him and his career, and not necessarily the team he’s playing for. The numbers – 13.3 points and 4.5 assists per game don’t really scream superstar, do they?
But when it comes down to what is actually happening, numbers don’t really tell the whole story. Lin is a point guard, but plays too many minutes as the guy who is off the ball while James Harden gets another chance to pad his stats and make basketball look like a selfish sport and much more complicated than it should be. What’s worse is that for some reason the geniuses running the organization have decided Lin would do better off coming off the bench. Not just being a sixth man, but playing less minutes than someone like Patrick Beverley.
Analytics, net ratings and all the advanced stats stuff is fine, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. Actually watching a game can teach people a lot of things that numbers don’t. And the Rockets winning 7 games in a row? It’s not all about Lin, obviously: Harden has had his good games, and Dwight Howard is suddenly a much bigger part of the offense than he was earlier this season. But why is that? Harden missing some games with an injury helped steer the ship in the right direction, with Lin leading the team and not him. Suddenly, open players got balls. Suddenly, the ball moved inside and outside, with no one hogging it and wasting precious seconds of the clock. The Rockets began playing basketball the way it should be played.
Harden came back and hasn’t been able to mess the good vibes. Good games, bad games, it doesn’t matter. The Rockets are playing well, even on defense, although James Harden remains one huge Achilles heel, despite some of the media loving to shift the blame towards Lin because of something they remember about him from his time with the Knicks.
Yes, Lin still isn’t close to being an All-Defensive kind of player and might never be. However, he’s a lot smarter on defense than people give him credit for, and knows how to cut passing lanes very well, not to mention being the best player the Rockets have when it comes to leading a fast break.
Playing next to a dominant two-guard (who plays like a point guard), an All-Star center and two forwards who can easily heat up every night eats a little bit into your scoring numbers. But if he was used the right way from the start of the season, we would be seeing much more impressive numbers from Lin, making him a legitimate All-Star candidate, and not just someone who might get in because of his fan base.