By now, every basketball fan has heard the famous story of Jeremy Lin.
A Harvard graduate who couch surfed until he got a shot at a guaranteed contract, Jeremy Lin's career arc has been quite the tale. It seems like it was just yesterday that "Linsanity" was captivating the hearts of Madison Square Garden and the basketball world.
Unfortunately, we haven't been able to see the Jeremy Lin that spun opposing defenses in circles since his first season with the New York Knicks. Lin signed an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets the summer following his magical season in the Big Apple, ending up in Houston after the Knicks decided not to match the offer. After falling into the shadows of James Harden and Dwight Howard for two seasons, Lin was traded in a salary dump to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer. Lin's only season in LA was miserable, as he suffered from the brunt end of a lot of Kobe Bryant's anger. In just three short seasons, Lin went from potential franchise point guard to a player that needed a first round pick attached to him just to unload his salary.
On Wednesday, Jeremy Lin agreed to a two year deal with the Charlotte Hornets that will pay him around $4.3 million. It looks like this will be for the bi-annual exception, a tool that can be used to sign players while being over the salary cap once every two years. The Hornets have been operating above the salary cap this summer and didn't use the BAE last year, making it a useful chip for them.
Now that we know where "Linsanity" will be taking his talents, it's time to take a dive into how he might fit with his new team.
Despite what Kobe might think, Jeremy Lin is coming off a nice season. In his only year with LA, Lin averaged 11.2 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field, 79.5 percent from the line, and a career high 36.9 percent from 3. His assist to turnover ratio was 2.1, a solid number for a point guard.
As a lead guard in the NBA, you have to be able to navigate traffic and run the offense in a pick and roll. Making split decisions on reading the defense is what separates the good and the bad when it comes to point guards. Jeremy has shown the ability to make those reads and execute them against aggressive defensive schemes.
Lin has been just fine with that throughout his career. He isn't as deadly finishing at the hoop as he was in New York, but he can still be crafty in the pick and roll at times.
The obvious thing that Lin is going to bring to Charlotte is shooting. It is no secret that the Hornets were a disaster from deep last season, ranking dead last in the league in 3-point percentage. Lin has improved his 3-point percentage each season he has been in the league.
Lin has had experience shooting in lots of different ways, too. When he was in New York and LA, he had to shoot off the dribble a lot more. In Houston, James Harden handled the majority of the work load on the ball, leaving Jeremy to spot up around him. Last season, Lin shot an above average 37.5 percent on catch and shoot attempts while also shooting 37.4 percent on pull-up shots off the dribble, according to NBA.com.
Lin's versatility to play with and without the ball will be a key to this Hornets team, and more specifically with their second unit. He isn't going to be their starting point guard, as Charlotte just gave Kemba Walker a big extension last fall to be that guy. Even though he experienced a dip last year, Brian Roberts is a career league average 3-point shooter at 35.3 percent, making him one of the few guys on the team that was a threat to hit a shot from outside last season. With two capable point guards already on the team, adding Lin makes it a bit of a log jam.
This is where Lin's experience playing in multiple offensive styles will come in handy. He has the ability to come in and run the point with second units — heck, he might even be one of the best backup point guards in the entire league. He can play off the ball when Roberts or Walker are in the game alongside him and work as a spot-up threat instead of the lead ball handler. With the new players that the Hornets acquired this offseason, a small ball lineup of Kemba, Lin, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, and Frank Kaminsky has the potential to do some damage and put up lots of points.
There are also several concerns that come with Lin. While he may be crafty on offense, his lack of lateral quickness hurts him on defense. He is a blackhole guarding point guards and at just 6'3", he isn't big enough to guard wings either. If Charlotte is going to get back to their elite defense from two seasons ago, Lin isn't the best bet to help turn things around. To his credit, however, Lin has put a tremendous amount of work into improving his defense over the last few seasons.
Offensively, his shooting and playmaking might be a nice addition to the team, but I'm not sure we will get to see Lin's full potential on that end with the Hornets. Jeremy thrives in transition and in the pick and roll; both places where he has the defense on their heels and can use his nifty euro steps, pump fakes, and no-look passes to get what he wants. Charlotte has a post-up monster in Al Jefferson, who justifiably has the majority of the offense run through him. With the bulk of the offense coming from post ups, Charlotte ranked in the bottom ten in pace last season.
Lin will be able to suffice as a shooter around those Al post ups, but Jefferson isn't the most willing passer on the block and Lin won't be able to utilize his best skills. Lin developed great chemistry with Ed Davis in LA, a rim running roll guy who slices down the lane to attract help defenders or catch lobs. Charlotte had that type of guy in Bismack Biyombo until he decided to sign with the Toronto Raptors instead of returning. There is a chance that Lin and Kaminsky can develop a nice two-man game, even though Kaminsky is a pick and pop guy and not a threat to roll at all. That extra space Kaminsky creates with his shooting, however, will give Lin more room to attack the basket and get in the lane.
Overall, there should be lots of excitement for Lin in Charlotte. He has some NBA skills that are coveted and making players lots of money around the league, and the Hornets got him for an absolute bargain with the bi-annual excpetion. He had other offers for more money from other teams but decided to rebuild his image by moving to the east coast and settling in Charlotte instead. He may not be the "Linsanity" we all want him to be anymore, but he definitely is still good enough to add to the buzz going on in Buzz City.