Perhaps the most remarkable story of this shortened NBA season has been the sudden arrival of a former D-League player to the biggest stage in the NBA, and the worldwide attention it drew. Jeremy Lin made a splash in New York that even the biggest movie producers or fashion designers would envy. He brought life to a franchise that was struggling with injuries, egos and fan frustration.
His arrival was the stuff of legend. Linsanity swept New York harder and faster than Yankee fever does every spring. Lin started his career with New York by continually scoring in the upper 20s and dishing out 10-plus assists. His monstrous start was capped by a last-second, game-winning three-pointer in Toronto.
Since his torrid start, Lin has fallen back to Earth a bit, but his production speaks for itself. Until he went down with a knee injury, Lin was still averaging more than 14 points and six assists per game. That's a solid line for a player whose main job is to get the ball to his superstar teammates. Even with his lowered numbers, Lin has still been a terrific find for one of the league's historic franchises.
Surely, as the offseason approaches, the Knicks will want to keep their diamond in the rough. However, as a free agent, that might be a little easier said than done.
The Knicks are buried in the salary cap, having to pay massive amounts to players like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. They also don't have the full Bird Rights for Lin, so they can't take advantage of being able to go above the cap to re-sign their own player.
If they want to keep Lin, who will surely draw major attention on the free-agent market, they will have to get creative with their means (for a detailed description of the Knicks-Lin salary situation, check out this article by Larry Coon).
Assuming that the Knicks offer their mid-level exception to Lin and he decides to opt for more money elsewhere, here's a list of players the Knicks could target this offseason to step in and replace Lin's productivity.