Though he will only count $8.374 million against the Lakers’ cap, Jeremy Lin will actually earn close to $15 million next season. As a result, the pool of teams interested in acquiring him from the Rockets probably wasn’t as big as it should have been. Perception is Lin is nothing close to the player who broke out with the Knicks three years ago; while reality is he was much closer than the underwhelming amount of media hype would have you assume. The context was simply different; Lin didn’t get enough possessions with James Harden and Dwight Howard around last season. But a closer look indicates Lin could be in line for a return to stardom with a Lakers team starved for high end shot creation.
That would have been a near certainty if Mike D’Antoni was still the coach. Lin continues to excel the most out of the pick-and-roll, the bread and butter of D’Antoni’s system. He has good speed off the bounce, both on straight line drives and when forced to change directions. 28.7% of his attempts were at the rim and Lin finished them at a 63.7% clip, with only a third of his two-point field goals assisted. He does not play above the rim but has great balance in the air and touch to score at basket level, even against length as only 45 of his 293 shots in the restricted area were blocked. Lin also possesses great instincts passing out of dribble penetration, with the Rockets averaging over 10 points per game off his assists last season.
His role in Houston required him to be a threat off the ball and Lin took a significant step forward in that area. He posted a 60.8% effective field goal percentage on approximately 177 catch-and-shoot attempts in the regular season, hitting 40.5% of his catch-and-shoots from three-point range. Only 17.5% of his three-point attempts were from the corner but Lin hit them at a 45% clip.
Just like the average NBA player, his efficiency substantially dropped off the bounce, as he hit just 33% of his 184 pull up shots. That was specifically the case when Lin was forced to settle for a jumper out of the pick-and-roll. He also continues to struggle taking care of the ball. His 18.4% turnover rate was very high in the context of him finishing only 20.4% of Houston’s possessions with a shot, shooting foul drawn or turnover in his 2,054 minutes. Lin is a risk taker with his passes and at times tries forcing assists that aren’t there. 114 of his 190 turnovers in the regular season and the playoffs were classified as bad passes.
On the other end, Lin has developed into an underrated defender at this point. He held opponents to just 0.88 points per possession and a 13.3 player efficiency rating per 48 minutes last season. Lin was not the shutdown specialist Patrick Beverley is but proved himself capable of keeping pace with even the elite types of his position, like Tony Parker and Damian Lillard. Opponents averaged just 0.79 points per possession in isolation. At six-foot-three and 200 pounds, he has a size advantage on most point guards and is able to contain dribble penetration through contact.
Lin also displayed the lateral quickness to navigate screens and recover well, ranking in the top 100 in scoring allowed per possession on pick-and-rolls. He was below average playing passing lanes to manufacture turnovers and contributing on the defensive glass among position peers but his individual defense impacted Houston positively. The Rockets allowed 102 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (a rating that would have had them ranked seventh in defensive efficiency) and 104.3 when he hit the bench.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.