The Brooklyn Nets are going to play Jeremy Lin in a bigger role than he’s ever had, and more minutes than he’s ever played. This means a whole different set of stats for Lin, and this is an attempt to gauge what kind of offensive numbers we’re going to see from him next season.
The numbers I was thinking of are these: Lin taking 15 shots per game, going to the line at least 6 times, and shooting four times from beyond the arc, at least. Now, there are 7 NBA players with these kind of numbers last season: James Harden, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Durant. Is this aiming a bit too high for Lin, or is it how dominant he’ll be for the Nets? I sorted their seasons by points per game, assists per game and usage ration.
Is expecting Lin to put up so many shots, and maybe close to these numbers (20 points, 8 assists per game, or something close to that) being too optimistic. Maybe. His per 36 minutes numbers from last season: 16.1 points, 4.4 assists per game, taking 12.8 shots a game, including 4 from beyond the arc and 5.1 free throw attempts per game. Lin averaged 26.3 minutes per game last season, but only on a 22.2 usage ratio. Kyle Lowry, who shares the ball with DeMar DeRozan, was the lowest ranked among the 7 players mentioned at 26.1%, and he still averaged 21.2 points with 6.4 assists per game. Everyone on that list averaged over 21 points per game.
One thing worth mentioning is three points. Westbrook, at 4.3, is the only player on that list to take less than 5.5 three pointers a game. He’s also the only player on that list to make less than 35% of his three pointers. Lin made 33.6% of his three point shots last season, a decline after the constant incline he had since the beginning of his career with his outside shot. Maybe it was the matter of confidence from Clifford constantly using him in different roles and minutes. Maybe it was his elbow injury, or the new shooting motion. One thing is for sure: Lin hitting his 3’s at 37.5%-40% makes him extremely dangerous.
Another thing worth considering is pace. It’s not mandatory: The Raptors were tied with the Utah Jazz at 92.9 possessions per 48 minutes, and the Brooklyn Nets were at 95.2, but they’ve constantly been around the lower regions of the league in recent years. The Rockets, Thunder, Pacers and Celtics were all ranked in the top 11 in possessions per 48 minutes last season. The last season Mike D’Antoni coached, the Los Angeles Lakers were 2nd in the league in possessions per 48 minutes. The Atlanta Hawks were 8th last season in that aspect, with Kenny Atkinson as one of the assistants. When Lin was playing, the Hornets had a 98.4 pace factor, which would have placed them 6th in the NBA. Lin being the point guard means high tempo.
However, Lin is different from the players on this list, who are all shot-first players. Lin might have been forced into that situation last season and at times with the Lakers and the Rockets, but he’s first about making others around him better. Obviously, if the best thing for the Nets will be for Lin to be their main scorer, he shouldn’t avoid it, but with Brook Lopez expecting good service, and a lot of players who need someone to create shots for them, Lin might have an opportunity to put up some impressive assist numbers, but that 20 points per game might be difficult to reach with so many players depending on him to operate them.
So is 18 points and 8 assists per game a solid expectation from him next season? Only three players last season averaged better than 18-8 last season: Chris Paul, John Wall and Westbrook. But totals and even averages can be misleading. SO maybe dial down the expectations? To 16 points, 7 assists per game? Maybe, although we still don’t know the rotation minutes Atkinson is going to be using. Lin’s biggest season in terms of minutes was in 2012-2013, averaging 32.2 a night with the Rockets, 2640 in total. Assuming there are no injuries, he should expect around 2800 minutes at least. Point guards, players who are the basis of everything their team does, play these kind of minutes, and from the looks of the team the Nets built for this year, Lin is going to be hard to keep off the floor.