Jeremy Lin: 5 Teams Who Could Use the New York Point Guard
Only in New York could such an obvious flash-in-the-pan superstar be labeled as the franchise savior, generate an online All-Star campaign and inspire his own rap song after two (yes two!) good games.
While it's impossible at this juncture to tell whether or not Lin can continue to be a productive starter, I wouldn't bet against him.
His comically uplifting story reads like a cross between a Buzz Bissinger narrative and a Coen Brothers script.
Lin got no scholarship offers out of high school in spite of captaining Palo Alto (California) High School to a 32-1 state title season his senior year while running away with virtually every Player of the Year award from major publications.
Then, after a brilliant (no pun intended) career at Harvard, where he became the first player in Ivy League history to rack up at least 1,450 points (1,483), 450 rebounds (487), 400 assists (406), and 200 steals (225), Lin again got no attention at the next level.
But after going undrafted, spending time in the D-League and getting waived by the Warriors and Rockets, Lin fatefully landed in the most prominent American metropolis on the map. Not to mention with a Knicks team that needed a point guard worse than Donald Trump needs a haircut.
Sounds like a Coen Brothers ending to me.
But before we get our Milk Duds and popcorn ready, let's consider this from a realistic perspective. The NBA is now a point guard-dominated league. Unless you're the Miami Heat, you pretty much need an All-Star caliber player at the 1-slot to stamp yourself as a playoff contender.
So if Lin is really more than just a lightning flash-in-the-pan—and his persistent history would suggest as much—which teams missed out on this once trash-bagged treasure?
Sure, a phenomenon of this caliber is harder to foresee than a Giants Super Bowl run. But here are four playoff contenders who probably wished they took a half-court shot on the Harvard scholar.
5. Miami Heat
While Lin's scoring totals from his first two starts would undoubtedly go down alongside stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his all-around floor game would be the perfect complement Miami has been looking for from its point guards.
Mario Chalmers has improved greatly from a season ago, raising his scoring average by exactly five points per game (6.4 to 11.4).
But his assist-to-turnover ratio is still far too mediocre for him to be considered a championship-caliber floor general (3.9-2.2).
Obviously, with ball-dominaters like LeBron and D-Wade, Miami's offense runs a bit differently at the top than your average team.
But a passing wizard like Lin would enable the Heat's perimeter stars to focus more on scoring than setting up the offense.
4. Dallas Mavericks
Make no mistake.
Jason Kidd is still an above-average point man who racks up over five assists per game.
But at 38 going on 39 (in March), the rest of his once-prolific all-around game has grown very limited.
During the Mavericks' championship run last spring, he practically split time with the younger, fresher and quicker JJ Barea.
With Kidd now nursing an injury and Barea in Minnesota, the Mavs are thinner than Paris Hilton at the most important position on the floor.
De facto starter Delonte West is not a natural point guard, and former French leaguer Rodrigue Beaubois is about as inconsistent as his nation's governing body.
Just like with New York, Lin would likely provide Dallas with the youthful spark that would help cure their early-season doldrums.
3. Orlando Magic
No team has aged faster than Orlando, who got to the Finals three years ago with a a dynamic core of players like Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, who were all seemingly just entering their primes (except maybe Turkoglu).
Now only the petulant Howard is still at that stage in his career.
Perhaps the most surprising decline has been Nelson's, who's averaging a single-digit point total for the first time since his rookie season in 2004-05.
Whether that's attributed to mileage or the lack of mind-easing stability in Orlando given the Howard situation is tough to tell. But the addition of Lin would either bring out the best in Nelson or force him to the bench.
If the Harvard product is for real, it could also go a long way toward keeping Howard in Orlando.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Forget social security. Derek Fisher is old enough to remember prohibition.
After watching him don a suit and tie and negotiate with David Stern all summer, it was a little too easy to lose sight of the fact that this guy still starts next to Kobe Bryant.
Just like last year, the Lakers still have enough talent to plod through the regular season with a below-average point guard.
But just like JJ Barea in the Western Semis last spring, the younger floor generals will play ring-around-the-rosy with Fisher in the playoffs.
With Lin in the fold, at least LA would have some fresh, young blood to match the other contenders at such a pivotal spot on the floor.
1. Atlanta Hawks
With all their scoring options, the Hawks have always been just a point guard away from deep playoff contention ever since their re-emergence began in 2007-08.
While Teague has played well so far this season (12.6 PPG, 5 APG, both career highs), his inconsistent and largely unproductive NBA past means he's far from a stable mainstay.
Lin's slashing style would mesh perfectly with great athletes like Josh Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson.
If he could maintain his prolific pace, the California kid would also enable Atlanta to match the other teams in the East that feature dynamic point guards (Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) come springtime.
As a matter of fact, Lin may just be the player who could push the hollow, often heartless Hawks past their second-round hump.