Jeremy Lin has not been with the Charlotte Hornets for long, but he has played a key role for the Hornets this season as the backup guard and one of the top options off Charlotte's bench, which for much of the season was among the Hornets strengths. But Lin's play this season has been inconsistent at best, and, whether it was because of a new shooting form or injuries, the Hornets will need a more consistent version of Jeremy Lin if they want to taste postseason success.
Jeremy Lin has said that this season has been one of his most fun since entering the league, and that he really likes Charlotte. But, statistically, 2015 is on pace to be one of his worst seasons in the Association. Entering Wednesday night's season finale with the Magic, Lin is averaging 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 26.3 minutes, shooting 41.1 percent from the floor, 33.2 percent from 3 and 81.5 percent from the free throw line. All of these, minus the free throw percentage and rebounding numbers, which would be a career-high, are among the worst of Lin's career since his rookie season.
Lin has been a streaky shooter all season. When he is on, he is on - he scored 10+ points in 10 consecutive games between late January and early February and has singlehandedly won a few games for the Hornets as well. Just ask the Cavaliers, the Celtics or the Spurs (or better yet, ask Nelly). Tuesday night, Lin finished with 25 points, five assists, seven rebounds and five steals, earning a few honorable notes in the process. He became the first Charlotte player since Ben Gordon in 2012-13 to have multiple 25+ games as a reserve in a single season, became the first Charlotte player since Tony Delk in 1997 (also against Boston) to record at least 25 points and four steals off the bench and became the first player this season to record 25+ points and 5+ steals as a reserve - the first player to do so since Corey Brewer in February of last season (all stats via the Hornets' PR Twitter account).
But when he is off, he is off, which has been the case lately. Prior to the All-Star Game (50 games), Lin scored six or fewer points 10 times. Through the 27 games since, he has scored six or fewer points nine times. His field goal percentage in March was 41.4 percent, the second-highest of any month this season. In April, it has plummeted to 36.8 percent, the lowest of any month this season. To add insult to injury, Lin's defensive rating, which had been 97.5 and 98.7 in February and March, respectively, has skyrocketed to 105.8 in April, the highest it has been in any month all season.
Perhaps it is due to Lin's swollen elbow. Perhaps he is just going through a slump. Whatever the reason, the Hornets will need the hot Jeremy Lin when the playoffs begin, as points come at a premium in the postseason.
As mentioned above, the stats did not look every promising for Lin entering the postseason. But, it also means that Lin is due. In the two games before his 24-point outburst against the Cavaliers, he scored a combined 10 points on 4-for-18 shooting against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers. Before scoring 50 points in two games against the Spurs and Nets, he had scored more than seven points just once in the four games before.
Then came last night's herculean effort to keep Charlotte's hope of earning the fifth seed alive. In the three games before it, Lin had totaled 18 points on on 6-for-26 shooting (or a field goal percentage of 23.1 percent). He topped that in Tuesday night's second quarter alone, when he scored an absurd 19 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
Jeremy Lin is capable of such explosive games - but how can he be more consistent off the bench?
The simple thing would be to say Lin just needs to start making his shots again. If we want to get more advanced, you would say that Lin needs to improve his 3-point shooting, particularly from the right side of the court, and his ability to finish at the hoop.
Here, we see the shot chart for the month of April. It is hard to miss the giant red areas on the right, where the vast majority of Lin's 3-pointers have come from. If Lin can improve his shooting from there (or at least his efficiency), it would go a long way in helping the Hornets in the postseason.
Lin making deep shots would open the lanes for Lin to drive to the hoop and create space for his teammates, allowing Lin to pick and choose when to attack the basket and when to kick it out to an open teammate (think the end of the Spurs game).
It should also help Lin's ability to finish at the basket when the defense is spread out and not packing the middle of the court. Making half of your shots within eight feet of the basket sounds nice, until you notice that the league average on such shots is 56.4 percent. If he can improve his field goal percentage there even to the league average, it would go a long way to helping give the Hornets the constant scoring threat off the bench they so desperately need this postseason.
The Hornets don't need Linsanity back in the playoffs; They just need a consistent source of scoring off the bench to compliment the starters. Though if Tuesday's game is any indication, Lin may be beginning a new hot streak at just the right time.
All stats from NBA.com/stats/ and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.