NBA free agency is one of the most exciting periods of the season. Players, both stars and favourites alike, are able to sign with new teams, altering the future roster of their chosen destinations.
After one of the most hyped seasons in recent memory, Jeremy Lin emerged from the New York bench to become a star. As a starter, he averaged 18.2 points and 7.7 assists to lead the Knicks on their longest winning streak of the season. Combining the publicity he received with where he could end up makes this year’s free agency especially intriguing.
He is a restricted free agent, and has stated he wishes to return to New York, and re-join a talented roster of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Unfortunately, for the Knicks and their fans alike, this will not happen.
Jeremy Lin is a restricted free agent. This means that any offer Lin receives, the Knicks can automatically match it and retain his services. However, with approximately $53 million in salaries locked up in Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler, the Knicks simply cannot afford to.
It is certain an NBA team will overpay for Lin’s skills. If New York was to match the offer and keep Lin, they would have no cap space available to build the roster in the next three subsequent free agency periods.
Filling out the roster with a majority of minimum salary players will not equate to success for the Knicks.
As talented as Lin is, the New York Knicks do not need to heavily pursue him this NBA free agency. After he was sidelined with a meniscus tear, the team went 12-5 in his absence.
The duo of Anthony and Stoudemire led this team back into the playoffs, despite an early exit to the Miami Heat. The fact remains that this team is not point-guard driven. When Mike D’Antoni resigned and Mike Woodson took over at the helm, the need for a point guard to run his system vanished.
The Knicks played well with a combination of Baron Davis and Iman Shumpert (who will return next season) and would have caused a little more noise against Miami had both not severely injured their knees.
When Shumpert recovers and returns to play for NY, the fact that they do not need Lin to run the offense will become more apparent.
The isolation play of Anthony and Lin caused rumours to swirl during the NBA season. Anthony’s scoring ability requires him to have control of the ball, similarly with Lin. With both players in the lineup, the Knicks went 9-8, including a six-game losing streak. They followed this up with a five-game win streak, yet both Lin and Anthony struggled.
Anthony averaged 16.9 points on .401 percent in their time together, with Lin going for 15.0 points and 6.8 assists, albeit on .400 percent shooting and 3.8 turnovers per game.
A method of playing Lin and Anthony separately was raised, but would be unrealistic and far too difficult when they playoffs arrived. To unfortunately quote from the Harry Potter series: "Neither can live, while the other survives."
The NBA free agency period of 2012 will be interesting for Jeremy Lin. With Carmelo Anthony sidelined, Lin proved he has what it takes to be a brilliant player, performing at an All-Star level. Here are his statistics during that run:
Although Lin did average 5.8 turnovers per game, his production was still outstanding. Developing precision with the ball will come with time, and is a skill Lin can hone as his career progresses.
However, he has the potential to be great in this league, and re-signing with a star-studded Knicks team is not the way to progress his career. Lin should look to sign somewhere like Utah or similar, as he can be the primary offensive player and distributor for the team.
Lin needs a system where he can be ball-dominant. Just like rumours of Steve Nash joining the Heat would not work, Lin re-signing with New York will have the same result.
Mike D’Antoni is a fantastic coach, with an impressive offensive system. However, it needs a skilled point guard capable of distributing and orchestrating pick-and-roll offense. He was successful pairing this system with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix, just as he was pairing Jeremy Lin and Stoudemire in New York. Carmelo Anthony was absent from the playing roster, and the team was able to run this type of offensive set.
Now that D’Antoni has stepped down, the true need of a point guard has vacated itself from the Knicks to-do list. Mike Woodson, once interim but now permanent coach of New York, is a defensive specialist when it comes to directing the team.
When he was charged with guiding the Atlanta Hawks, their point guard was either Mike Bibby or Jeff Teague. Neither is a distributor or a ball-dominant guard, and both were contributing players. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford were the leaders of the team, which has a similar blueprint to the Knicks’ Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler.
Lin is no longer needed in New York, however talented he is. It will be difficult to let him walk during NBA free agency, but for the good of both parties, Lin is better off somewhere else.