Exactly 4 weeks to go until the NBA trade deadline, the chatter around the subject of Jeremy Lin and the Atlanta Hawks moving him to another team is becoming a louder and louder buzz.
The only specific team mentioned is the Toronto Raptors (A team Lin has done traditionally well against) as an option – Kyle Lowry has already missed 11 games this season, and while Fred VanVleet has done a good job as his backup, Lin provides much better offensive numbers in terms of production per minute and accuracy.
Yahoo’s Kevin Smith has also mentioned Lin as a prime candidate to be moved. It’s not difficult to see the logic behind it: The Hawks are tanking, Lin is one of the few assets they have that are both movable due to the combination of ability, experience and contract situation (expiring deal worth what remains of his $13.7 million contract). The rest of their veterans simply aren’t interesting to other teams, and the few prospects the Hawks are holding on to aren’t going anywhere, not this season.
After 4 consecutive games of single-digit scoring for Lin, he’s picked up the pace in the last four, making it a strong start to 2019 – just in time for Trade-Talk month. He’s averaging 15.8 points over the last 4 games, shooting 52.3% from the field and dishing out 5.8 assists a night. He’s had increased minutes against the Raptors and Nets, and if we follow the expected logic of a tanking team with a player they want to showcase, it should mean Lin finally gets long stretches on the floor.
It doesn’t mean he won’t get pulled out of the game which kills the Hawks momentum – tanking teams don’t use their players like a normal team would. Lin also “suffers” from two other things: He’s not as selfish as he should be sometimes, which leads to another issue that hurts his numbers and the Hawks’ goal of getting something worthwhile for him: the rest of his 2nd unit teammates tend to, intentionally or not, freeze him out of games.
Regardless, Lin has been one of the most productive bench players in the NBA this season, with 11 points and 3.5 assists in 19.3 minutes a night. His 3-point shooting has taken a dip recently, but his overall field goal percentage is hovering around 49% and he does an excellent job of getting to the line and finishing from there (82.9%), which he has no problem deferring to on nights that his outside shot isn’t falling right.
We’re still in early January so the market is still relatively lukewarm. The closer we get to the deadline (February 7) and there’s a clearer picture of which teams are contending for something and which are already thinking about the future, we’ll starting hearing about concrete offers. Limited cap situations of teams in contention and with a need for Lin could make the whole deal-weaving thing a tad more creative than the Hawks would like.