As the date approaches closer and closer to NBA Free Agency, there is one individual that causes me a lot of intrigue, and that is a point guard that has a career lifetime average of 11.7 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds on 44/35/80 shooting. Standing at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, with impressive physical tools and a 6 -foot-5 reach, this player that heads into his sixth year has arguably only been used properly for about a month in his entire NBA career.
The player in question is Jeremy Lin, and he now has an opportunity to find a situation where he can blossom and really develop into a quality point guard. The physical tools are there–while he may not look it, he has comparable speed to Derrick Rose and John Wall (and speed like that doesn’t come every day)–but the thing that has limited his potential are the situations he finds himself in. Ironically, the situation where he thrived was a situation he would not like to be in ever again: riding the bench, living on friends couches and signed to multiple 10 day contracts, not knowing if he was ever going to play or how long he would last in the league. New York not only provided one of the best sports stories in recent memory, but also provided a blueprint on how to succeed with Jeremy Lin running your team–space the floor, give Lin the opportunity to use his speed on high pick and rolls and get out in transition.
Lin benefited from having Tyson Chandler as his center, as Chandler is 1) one of the best screeners at his position and 2) is one of the most dangerous roll men due to the fact he is capable at any moment at taking advantage of a helping defense to cut down the lane and rise above the rim for an easy dunk. One must know how to use a pick, and Lin not only grew comfortable with the two-man game with Chandler, he mastered it.
In New York, Lin showed the world that he was a capable point guard, able to make the difficult passes in traffic and thread the needle, all the while being able to facilitate and be a scoring threat. The big problem Lin showed in New York was his turnovers per game (averaging 3.6 a game), and that was somewhat accounted for by the fact that once he took over the reigns of the team, he had a lot of responsibility and the ball often was in his hands.
Excuses withstanding, Lin has long struggled with keeping his turnovers down, as he sometimes tries to do too much and forgo the easy pass to make the one that has a greater risk/reward potential. As a point guard, one of the most important tasks for the position is keeping a good handle on the ball and the game, and that means being able to not mindlessly turn the ball over. Ball security should be of paramount importance, as no coach will be able to trust a point guard is unsuccessful against pressure from the defense.
Lin has been in tough situation after tough situation after his time in New York, sharing the ball with two superstars in James Harden and Kobe Bryant, and never materializing in a situation where he is allowed to thrive. Last year, head coach Byron Scott was more concerned about getting his rookie Jordan Clarkson experience than finding the best way to win games, and it was truly unfortunate that Lin did not get a fair shot at finding success in Los Angeles. Have to give it up to him, though, as he handled being benched to the second unit with admirable class.
Looking to the future, Lin is in control of his future, and he must be excited. There are teams that are actively pursuing him, and there are a couple of teams that look like they would be good fits for him. Out of the seven teams reportedly interested in Lin, the team that is most intriguing is the Dallas Mavericks. With Monta Ellis opting out of his contract and most likely done in a Dallas uniform, the organization is looking for a primary ball handler more than ever. A big problem Dallas faced last year was their lack of identity at the point guard position, electing rather to let Ellis be the primary ball handler and scorer. While that worked well in the run-and-gun regular season, it bit them in the butt when the game slowed down in the playoffs and matchups became that much important. Mark Cuban tried to get out ahead and cut off the head of the snake, but the entire Rondo situation ended up less than ideally.
The situation in Dallas just seems to be begging for the services of a point guard like Jeremy Lin. Exquisite spacing, emphasis on threes and transition, an athletic center setting screens and catching lobs (depending on if they re-sign Tyson or if they manage to steal DeAndre from the Clippers), and most importantly, the pressing need for a starting point guard. Going off numbers alone, Lin’s numbers compare favorably to Mike Conley and Jeff Teague, both great point guards in their own rights. In the day and age of the point guard boom, there is no shortage of needing an elite point guard.
In Dallas, Lin would find everything that he would need to become successful: a superstar (aging, but effective none the less) that doesn’t demand or dominate the ball, an athletic lineup around him able to help when he gets beat on defense (Parsons and Al-Farouq Aminu come to mind), an emphasis on pushing the pace of the game (allowing him to use his elite speed to his full potential) and a spaced floor allowing him to operate and create.
The right situation is almost more important than talent when it comes to longevity in the NBA. Of course, generational talent usually makes up for any conflicts in situation, but the truth of the matter is that everyone in the NBA is tremendously talented, and sometimes a talent will go in and out of the league if they are not allowed to thrive. Think about Danny Green’s career: if he had not been picked up by the Spurs and given an opportunity, he would have been out of the league. Bouncing around from team to team, he is now a premier player for a championship team, just showing how important situations are to the careers of NBA players. Lin has the opportunity again to mold his career, and I would bet that he will become a productive member of the Dallas Mavericks.