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Jeremy Lin: Why His Defense Will Be His Undoing

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Jeremy Lin: Why His Defense Will Be His Undoing
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Jeremy Lin's new contract will create a new set of expectations.

The New York Knicks, and their fanbase will get their wish.

The lucrative offer sheet the Rockets proposed will inevitably be matched by the Knicks, and Jeremy Lin will be the Knicks' starting point guard for the next four seasons. 

He's going to make about $5 million a year for the first two years of the deal, that jumps to $9 million in years three and four. 

Lin could turn out to be a decent player. There are a lot of things he can do effectively on the basketball court. 

Lin in a decent ball-handler, especially when one considers that he wasn't even a pure point guard in college. His offense is the strongest all around part of his game. He's just quick enough to get by some defenders, just strong enough to finish at the rim, and a good enough shooter from long range and the charity stripe to be a dependable, if not spectacular, scoring threat. 

If you're a New York Knicks fan that sounds good. It sounds like the Knicks have found a solid point guard for the next four years. He's not Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, or Deron Williams, but he's still getting paid a lot less than those three stars are. 

There is one major problem, however. 

Lin is not a good defender. Twenty years ago, when the league was filled with big men, and top point guards were more of a rarity, Lin would have been better than average, he'd be very good, and there would only be a few nights when his deficiencies would be exposed. 

Times change though. This is the era of the point guard. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Steve Nash is not known for his defense, but his offense is so good people often overlook his other shortcomings.

Consider this list of point guards. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Stephon Curry and John Wall. That's not even mentioning other gifted young point guards like Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon, Brandon Jennings, Mike Conley Jr. and Ricky Rubio. 

Is Jeremy Lin worse than all of those point guards defensively? No, he's not. Unfortunately he's on the low end of the defensive spectrum and he doesn't have as many skills on the other side of the ball as those who share his defensive shortcomings. 

Steve Nash has been a weak defensive player for his whole career, and he's going to end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Nash also averaged over 10 assists a game for most of the last 10 years. He's won two MVP awards.

Nash is not merely a "good" shooter. He's possibly the greatest shooting point guard in NBA History. Consider that he is a 90 percent free-throw shooter, a 49 percent field-goal shooter, and a 40 percent three-point shooter. 

Lin isn't much better than Nash on defense, and he's not even close to Nash on offense. Even worse, in his own division Lin will have to deal with Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo. 

Williams was famously torched by Lin on February 4, 2012. That was the game where Lin came off the bench, and exploded for 25 points and seven assists.

In the next matchup between the two teams Lin played well, but Williams was on fire, and scored 38 points which led New Jersey to a road win at Madison Square Garden. 

Lin and Rondo only matched up once. Lin had 14 points, five assists, and six turnovers in a 115-111 Knicks loss. 

Rajon Rondo had one of the best single-game performances any point guard has ever had. 

Rajon Rondo lit up Lin and the Knicks in March of 2012.

Lin looked completely overmatched by Rondo's quickness, not to mention Rondo's strength, and savvy. Rondo's line on the day: 18 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds. Rondo only shot 7-of-20 from the floor, but he missed a number of open court layups. Lin was simply no match for him. 

If Lin were on a better all around defensive team, then his own defense would not be as big a deal. Steve Nash is joining a Lakers team with Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Andrew Bynum, all of whom are above-average defensive players. 

Lin has Tyson Chandler, one of the league's best defensive players behind him. Eventually he'll also gain Iman Shumpert as well. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are both subpar defensive players. J.R. Smith who seems likely to play shooting guard while Shumpert recovers from knee surgery is not known for his exceptional help-defense either.

The Knicks seem likely to sign Lin for four years.

That's a long period of time to have a defensive liability playing one of the most talent-rich positions in the NBA.

Is it too long? Will the Mike Woodson led Knicks, who stress defense, be strong enough defensively as a team, to make up for one of its' key players' deficiencies?

Jeremy Lin's biggest weakness could eventually undermine the other positives he brings to the court. 

When you're an undrafted player, plucked out of the D-League, the expectations are rightfully low.

Unfortunately that all changes when you're expected to sign a four-year contract for over $28 million. At that price, fans and the team, will expect offense, and defense, and in New York coming up short on either one will put an end to whatever love affair the city once had.    

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