Analyzing Jeremy Lin's Game: Strengths and Weaknesses
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During a game against the Washington Wizards on February 8th, a foul was called against the Knicks; prior to the free throws, Jeremy Lin pulled Tyson Chandler aside and started discussing what their defensive positions were to be after the shots.
Here was something seldom seen from a young point guard. To be confident enough to tell a veteran and future Defensive Player of the Year what his thoughts were. It might surprise some, but Lin had obtained these skills for some time; he’s had to use these leadership qualities to not only lead Palo Alto, but also Harvard to record years.
This leadership is shown through his actions; but unlike other leaders in the NBA, who prefer to show it through scoring, Lin's abilities fill not only his own stat sheet, but also allow his teammates to be better players. Lin had a plus/minus of 142 in 940 minutes of play with the Knicks, had he been able to play the entire season, he would've greatly led all starters in this stat.
Both Steve Novak and Jared Jeffries were underused and underappreciated during their tenure with New York until Lin arrived. Jeremy was able to constantly find a trailing or open Novak, or a cutting Jeffries; the MSG crowd went from booing Jeffries to cheering him upon his return from an injury.
Like John Stockton before him, he's not a freak athlete, and instead relies on hours in the weight room and practice courts to hone and maintain his skills. And like John Stockton, you rarely find Lin forcing unnecessary shots, instead taking what the defense gives him.
If a screen is being set, and his defender goes under the screen, Lin is aware of the situation and more than capable of making the shot, Derek Fisher and the Lakers found this out. Should the defender try to go above the screen, then Lin can drive to the basket, do a pick-and-roll or kick it out to an outside shooter.
That driving to the basket and fearlessness of getting hurt is what has endeared him to basketball fans. Lin has said on many occasions that he idolizes Steve Nash, and he attempts to emulate his game, his quick first step and not picking up his dribble, leaving his options open. You could do far worse than emulating a future Hall of Famer.
Not every part of Jeremy's game is positive, though. Many critics have pointed at Lin's defense. However, if you look at his team defense, he's actually quite good. Jeremy will often trail his man, cutting off passing lanes, and while he's doing that, he'll swipe at the man with the ball, often leading to steals. Last season with 26 meaningful games, he averaged over two steals a game; only Kidd, Paul and Rondo averaged more.
However, despite making some amazing plays such as blocking Derrick Rose from behind during a Bulls game, his one-on-one defense can, at times, be suspect. Part of this fault lies in his enthusiasm to cover as much of the court as possible; this can, at times, leave his man open.
There are obvious areas where Lin has to improve; he has to recognize and avoid teams that are trying to trap him. The Miami Heat game showed that this is one of the best ways to contain Lin; and during the upcoming season with the Rockets, this will surely happen. With the Knicks, there were Carmelo, Amare and Chandler; teams couldn't afford the risk to double Jeremy. However, this risk is gone in a much-depleted Rockets team.
Although Lin clearly prefers the right side of the bucket, and that is his preference, he has shown on numerous occasions that he can drive and finish to the left, even with a towering center defending him. He has such great abilities driving to the right of the basket, that if he were to improve on his left, it would make him that much of a better player.
Finally, there are the turnovers. There were situations in New York, such as the first Raptors game or the Hornets game that stopped the Knicks seven-game winning streak, where his turnovers were a deciding factor in the game.
In Houston, he'll be the face of the franchise, Lin will be calling the plays, you can bet that Lin will led by example and show up at practices and shootarounds early and encourage his teammates to do the same. Coach McHale will make it a priority to run smooth plays, emphasizing the pick-and-roll; with a young team, chemistry will undoubtedly develop.
The turnovers will go down.
Jeremy Lin is by no means a perfect point guard, but both he and the Rockets' ceiling are so high, that whatever the results this season, both he and the Rockets will be an exciting team to watch.
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