After a pretty long weekend, we’re back on our offseason series of trying to figure out which teams might be good landing spots for Jeremy Lin next season, if he leaves the Charlotte Hornets. Up next: The Southwest division, with the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans under the magnifying glass.
Four of the teams on this list made the playoffs this season and usually have in recent years. Most of them have a lot of questions regarding the point guard position heading into the summer of 2016, but it doesn’t mean they all fit.
We’ll begin with the simple one – Rockets. Lin played in Houston for two years, and the Rockets have Patrick Beverley as the only point guard signed for next season. A player Lin is better than on offense by miles, and just because he doesn’t try to injure players on purpose doesn’t make him inferior defensively. But all that doesn’t matter. The Rockets are a solar system that revolves around the beard of James Harden. Lin should look for life and a future elsewhere.
On to the Pelicans, who had a “disappointment waiting to happen” kind of season, coming off making the playoffs in 2015, which only happened because Kevin Durant was injured. The Pelicans have Jrue Holiday, who when healthy is their starting point guard. Tyreke Evans, when healthy (picking up on a theme here?), also loves having the ball. The bench is pretty empty behind them, and Alvin Gentry is an interesting offensive mind to work with. However, if the Pelicans don’t move Holiday and Evans, Lin probably will feel a little bit left out in terms of minutes and possessions. He can probably do some very nice things with Anthony Davis.
Now to three teams that make a lot more sense. We begin with the Grizzlies, who right now don’t have a head coach, but will probably have one signed by the time it’s signing season. They have no point guard heading into next season, and Mike Conley might be tempted to go elsewhere, hoping someone offers him the max deal, which is a risk considering his injury issues. Lin could find a very nice niche in Memphis, but there’s a very good chance the Grizzlies have stretched their window of contending to its limit, and jumping onboard would mean playing for a team in a weird transition phase. Lin’s fit with whoever will be the coach is another issue that needs some further review.
The Dallas Mavericks looked like the team most likely to sign Lin last season, at least for a moment or two. Deron Williams has a player option for next season which he’ll probably pick up, Devin Harris is still on the team and J.J. Barea is also there. However, Lin is better than all three of them. Williams has very little left in the tank, Barea is fun but you can’t really count on him besides an energy role and Harris usually harms the Mavs more than he helps them. The Mavericks could make a very interesting place for Lin to play in, but Mark Cuban hasn’t done a great job of rebuilding the Mavericks after the 2011 championship, and unless the Mavericks can get rid of at least two of those contracts, they have too much money needlessly eating cap space. In short: Lin would be very good in Dallas under Rick Carlisle, but they have too many point guards right now as is.
We finish with the Spurs, who are probably scratching their head, trying to figure out how they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals. There are a number of reasons, but one of them is Manu Ginobili looking and playing like someone who belongs in retirement, and mostly Tony Parker finishing a rough season badly. Who knows, maybe the 2015-2016 campaign for Parker was just about trying to get over injuries, but there’s a clear sign of decline over the last two seasons, and hints that the Spurs could need some new blood at point guard. Parker is signed on for two more seasons at $30 million, while Patty Mills has one more year on his deal. How does Lin fit in? He could be great, really great in San Antonio. On most days he’s better than Tony Parker is at the moment (we’ll discuss his numbers as a starter tomorrow), but the question is whether or not the Spurs are willing to move on from Parker. He played 27.5 minutes per game when healthy this season, while Mills got the rest, declining in points per minute. Lin would be better for the Spurs than both of them, but only if room is made for him. San Antonio might be one of the few places Lin would go to and settle for less minutes than he could get somewhere else.