That's not an indictment of Lin's ability to succeed as a point guard in the NBA. Scoring 38 points against the Los Angeles Lakers is never a fluke, especially not when those points are backed by seven assists, 13-of-23 field goal shooting and 10-of-13 free-throw shooting.
Lin averaged more than 14 points and seven assists in 25 NBA games. It's a small sample size, but those numbers clearly indicate that Lin belongs. His better performances indicate an even higher ceiling.
But the Knicks are still wise to not match Lin's offer from the Rockets.
This is not about talent or potential. This is about business.
Guaranteeing $25 million to a player with only 25 career starts (only seven under the current head coach) is not smart business. Positioning to take a $30 million salary cap hit (factoring in luxury tax, according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith) in the third year of that player's contract by paying him $14.8 million for one season is flat-out bad business.
Lin may have superstar potential, but he is not worth that kind of money. A $30 million hit will devastate any team's salary cap.
Any discussion about whether or not Lin can be the point guard of New York's future is irrelevant. So is any discussion about whether or not he can mesh with Melo.
That $30 million cap hit in the third year of Lin's deal would come around the same time Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler account for a combined $62 million on the Knicks' books.
Dex McLuskey of Businessweek reports that if the Knicks agree to match the Houston offer, they would have to pay Lin, Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler a combined $75 million in 2014-15. Next season, teams have to pay the NBA $1 in tax for every $1 their player payroll exceeds $70.3 million.
“Whatever the numbers are for salary and luxury taxes, you can assess that pretty quickly and decide if it’s worth it,” said Steve Mills, a former president at Madison Square Garden, according to the story. “But if he doesn’t pan out to be as good a player as he seems he’s going to be, that contract constricts the Knicks in their future basketball decisions.”
At such a young age and with such little NBA experience, Lin comes with too much unknown. Keeping him at Houston's set price is too big of a risk. Letting him fly off with the Rockets doesn't come with much risk at all.
In Houston, Lin will be playing in a completely different conference. New York will only face him twice a year unless the two teams miraculously meet in the NBA Finals.
The Knicks will certainly miss Lin if he ends up playing at a level worthy of his monstrous contract, but they won't be hurt by him.
Neither scenario is likely to happen.