Jeremy Lin's career in the NBA is well documented. From sleeping on a teammate's couch, to capturing the attention of the league, Lin has become one of the most popular players in the NBA. After two seasons in Houston, and one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin arrived in Charlotte, signing a two-year, $4 million deal, reportedly turning down more money elsewhere to play for Charlotte. According to Doc Scheppler, Lin's shooting coach, head coach Steve Clifford was a major reason Lin chose Charlotte. For Lin, it seems fit was important. Find a team that can work with his strengths and style of play, and find a coach that will utilize them. With the second year of his contract containing a player option, Lin is banking a big year bringing in a bigger pay day next summer. This season, he has a great opportunity to do just that.
Lin was traded to the Lakers during the 2014 offseason. While he started all games in October and November, he would only start in 13 more games the rest of the season, with Lakers coach Byron Scott preferring rookie Jordan Clarkson, and Ronnie Price (yes, Ronnie Price) over Lin.
It sounds bad, but Lin's numbers were favorable despite playing on a terrible team. In 74 games, averaging 25.8 minutes, Lin averaged 11.2 points, and 4.6 assists, shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from the 3-point line. Despite relagation to the 2nd unit, Lin's usage percentage was 21.9, the highest it's been since his year in New York, while his turnover percentage was 17.7, the lowest of his career. Additionally, he finished with a PER of 15.6, also the highest it's been since his Knicks days. This is telling, because Lin managed to be a more efficient player despite the lack of talent around him. It suggests that Lin has shown steady improvements since entering the NBA, which is good news for Charlotte.
Nothing from a team standpoint worked for Lin in Los Angeles -- the team wasn't good, and he never had a clear role -- but individually, Lin had a fairly efficient season, which suggests he comes to Charlotte with a more well rounded game.
Fit With Hornets
Lin's strengths should benefit the rest of the roster. He's very good at attacking the lane, and with career 60.8 percent field goal percentage between 0-3 feet, very good at finishing at or near the basket. His 3-point shooting has steadily increased each season, with last year's 36.9 percent a career best. Even if he just maintains that percentage, he is the best 3-point shooting point guard on the roster. And yes, that isn't a prestigious list, but he brings a skill that both Kemba Walker and Brian Roberts lacked last season. Being able to score two ways, Lin should provide a fair amount of scoring.
Where he plays is up for a bit of debate now that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is likely out for the season. Lin will probably remain as the back-up point guard, but Clifford had stated even before MKG's injury that he planned to play Walker and Lin in the backcourt together. To quote Clifford:
It’s always good to have two pick-and-roll players on the floor. That way you can put pressure on the defense at one side, then switch it to the other.
Lin and Walker should be able to help each other, and Lin has already played a lot off the ball in preseason. You can see how he's utilized in this sequence in the team's last game against Miami.
At the 1:56 mark, Lin starts deep in the corner, and as the ball is rotated to the opposite side, comes off a screen from Frank Kaminsky. Unable to receive the ball, he cuts to the baseline, then cuts out to the ball side wing, rolling around to accept a hand off from Jason Washburn, who immediately sets a screen and rolls to the basket. Lin follows just behind, and as his layup attempt is contested, finds Washburn, who is unable to cleanly catch the ball, and ultimately turns it over.
It's an unsuccessful play, but it shows how active Lin is in an offense, even without the ball, and shows his playmaking ability when attacking the hoop. He doesn't seem to be the type of player to get tunnel vision, and should help with increasing the flow of the offense.
With the second unit, Lin should create a lot of the offense. Many of the second unit players don't create scoring opportunities for themselves, but Lin seems adapt at drawing defenders to him, particularly when driving, which creates open shots for others. If successful, he could help facilitate a second unit that last season was often dreadful to watch (those Jason Maxiell turnaround fadeaways will be a lasting nightmare).
There is potential for Lin as a starter, but take heed with this prediction. Clifford said after Tuesday's practice that he hasn't decided on a replacement starter for MKG, wanting to see different combinations before making a decision. If Walker and Lin are a successful two-man combination, Clifford may mull Lin starting as the two guard. However, this would change the dynamic of the second unit, which at this point, would work best with Lin as the backup point guard.
Needs To Improve
One area Lin could look to bounce back on is mid-range shooting. In a weird shift, Lin increased his field goal percentage from 10-16 feet from 30.1 two seasons ago to 39 last season, while his shooting from 16 feet to just inside the 3-point dropped significantly from 40.5 to 31.9. With the lack of 3-point shooting on the Lakers last season, spacing was an issue, meaning a lot of these shots could have been contested, but it's a concerning drop considering that this range had historically been one of his best over his career.
Additionally, Lin did not attempt a single dunk last season, which is completely inexcusable. Not one single dunk attempt? No wonder Byron Scott benched him.*
He's 27, in the prime of his career, and his fit with the roster seems mutually beneficial. He has high basketball IQ, and if he plays primarily as the point guard with the second unit, could create a lot of offense for the rest of the lineup. Like many of the newcomers, Charlotte is an opportunity for Lin to re-establish himself after a frustrating previous season. Depending on his play early in the season, Lin's role could expand as the season moves along.
* Joking, obviously.