IF Jeremy Lin leaves the Charlotte Hornets, where will he end up? Today we’ll take a look at the teams of the Central division: Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls & Milwaukee Bucks, to see his fit there, and the likelihood of him signing.
Lin, on paper, is still locked up for one more year, making $2.3 million, with the Hornets. But it just wouldn’t make sense for him to not opt out. Even if he’s planning on staying with the Hornets, there has to be more money coming his way.
So how do the Cavs look from a Lin perspective? Not good. There’s one thing to keep in mind about Cleveland: If LeBron James opts out of his deal, than it’s complete chaos and no one knows what it’s going to look like. But assuming James stays, it means there’s James and Kyrie Irving. That leaves very little opportunity for someone else to handle the ball, which means Lin, assuming he’s looking for more time of playing as the ball handler, isn’t going to end up there. Matthew Dellavedova, for example, averaged 24.6 minutes per game last season as the backup point guard, getting to start 14 times due to Irving’s injury.
On to the Pacers, which make a very interesting option. Rumors suggest Frank Vogel is going to get fired because Larry Bird wants a head coach who knows a little bit more about squeezing something out of the offense. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure Vogel could have done more than 40’ish wins and a playoff spot with the roster he has. And one position they need an upgrade in is point guard. George Hill is a good player, but too often hides from being the assertive ball handler the Pacers need. Paul George isn’t the star who grabs every possession for himself and Lin, who might bring in something a little bit different to the team, could make a very interesting fit there. It is worth remembering that Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey are on this team too, which means the backcourt is crowded. Lin would be an upgrade for them, but if he does go there, he’ll need to see some players departing to make room.
The Pistons? Not for him. I don’t see Lin pairing up with Reggie Jackson and it being different than what happened in Charlotte this season. Jackson loves the ball in his hands, Stan Van Gundy isn’t looking for a player like Lin, at least not for his lineup, and while Lin could bring the Pistons something special to their bench, he’s not going to be a meaningful player there.
The Chicago Bulls was a team I thought would go after Lin last season, and rumors suggested there were talks but nothing actually materialized. They kept Aaron Brooks as their backup point guard, playing him 16.1 minutes a night. Derrick Rose played something close to a full season for the first time since 2010-2011, but his coexistence with Jimmy Butler was part of what held the Bulls back. We’re going to see changes in Chicago, who need someone like Lin in their backcourt, but whether it’s good for the team or not, I don’t see anyone benching Rose for Lin, even if it makes more sense in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system. There’s also Butler to take into account, who loves having the ball in his hands a little bit too much, and tends to slow down the game, which is exactly the opposite of what the Bulls wanted to happen last season.
And we finish with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks played for most of this season trying to use players who aren’t point guards as ball handlers. But then they realized Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 6’11 forward with arms longer than the Mississippi river, can be their ball handler. He had a 24-game stretch late in the season (late February until April 10) averaging 19.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. Now, this offense could use another player who can do something with the ball, which the Bucks have decided Michael Carter-Williams can’t do. Is Lin on their radar? I think he could do very well in Milwaukee, but perhaps the Bucks don’t want anyone else getting in the way of Giannis’ dominance with the ball.