Jeremy Lin is one of the most recognizable names and faces in the entire world. Linsanity took the globe by storm in 2012, leaving the man himself with the burden of extraordinary expectations and unexpected superstardom.
In order to bring his production to a level that warrants such high praise, however, Lin must raise his game.
To be fair, the period of Linsanity was one of the greatest times the NBA has ever seen. Interest in the league was at an all-time high as global exposure reached new heights. For that reason, prior to ripping apart the flaws in his game, we must acknowledge the positive qualities he brings to the table.
During his magical 26-game run, Lin posted averages of 18.5 points, 7.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. He had the world in awe and New York City on the edge of their seats, which is more than the rest of the Knicks' current roster has been able to say at any point in their tenure.
The heart of Linsanity came between February 4th and February 29th. It was a month-long period in which he averaged 22.3 points, 9.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.
Opponents that Lin torched include Deron Williams' New Jersey Nets, John Wall's Washington Wizards, Ricky Rubio's Minnesota Timberwolves and Kyrie Irving's Cleveland Cavaliers. Oh, and he dropped in 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers at a sold out Madison Square Garden.
But he's not "big time," now is he?
Although the evidence against Jeremy Lin's status as an NBA-caliber point guard lacks legitimacy, there is cause for concern. As any player would have, there are significant holes in Lin's game that he must fix before we can truly consider him an All-NBA talent.
Here's how he can get there.
Limit the Turnovers
If Jeremy Lin decides to focus on just one aspect of his game, it had better be his issues with turning the ball over. Should he continue to cough it up 3.6 times per game, you can be certain that his NBA career will be shorter than expected.
Considering the 3.6 per contest doesn't actually tell the whole story, it's clear that the threat is more severe than we had assumed.
Over his 26-game string of extraordinary play, Lin averaged 4.5 turnovers per contest. He turned the ball over at least five times in 13 games and coughed it up at least six times in 12 outings. He had six games with seven or more.
In case you aren't getting the picture, the kid struggles to keep the ball in his own possession.
No matter how many points and assists he racks up, ending up on the wrong end of the turnover battle is the perfect way to lose a game. It is also the best way possible to get on your head coach's bad side, which is a possibility for any player under Kevin McHale.
Even one of Jeremy Lin's young stature.
One of the greatest causes for Lin's struggles has been the learning curve that all young point guards experience. Although some have the natural ability to facilitate, it takes time and repetition to understand the tendencies of both a team's defense and their individual defenders.
It is of equal importance that a point guard understands the qualities, preferences and abilities of the teammates he will be feeding the ball to. According to Jason Friedman of Rockets.com, Lin is well-aware of his need to improve in that area.
In an interview between the two, Linsanity himself stated:
Especially being in a pick-and-roll league, the first thing you have to look for and recognize is figuring out what kind of coverage the defense is in. Now your strategy at that point changes based on the type of players you have around you—are they shooters, slashers or post-up players?—that can really change the equation, but it all starts with that initial recognition and the faster you can do so the better. That’s what I’ve got to get better at actually.
Lin has a firm understanding of the areas he must improve. The question is, will he be able to improve with such an inexperienced group of players around him?
Only time will tell.
Deceive, Commit and Convert
When asked what he feels other NBA players are currently doing better than him, Lin responded with an answer that hit the nail on the head. He must not hold onto the ball for such a long time, thus creating opportunities for defenses to recover and force turnovers.
I tend to hold onto the ball too long. [Chris Duhon and Raymond Felton] read the floor and there’s a certain type of pass where they pick it up real fast and fire it—they’re great at that, and that’s something I needed to learn and see. You can’t always go against a double-team; once you’ve drawn it you’ve done your job and the question becomes: How do you get rid of it to the right person? They’ve done that really well.
One of the greatest issues for Lin during the 2011-12 season was that he would reach the extremes of committing to a play. Either he'd over-commit and force a ball in when it wasn't the best move to make, or he'd hesitate and broadcast his intention with his eyes.
To improve as a facilitator and cut down on the turnovers, Lin must find the proper balance and learn to deceive his opponent.
Body language is often conceived to be a dictation of one's morale. It can also be a signal for one's course of action.
For an offense to function, there must be a moment in which a defense falls out of position. This can be achieved utilizing on or off-ball screens, motion offense and a plethora of other techniques.
There is no greater way for a point guard to achieve this than to utilize ball, body and head fakes. Unfortunately, there is no greater hole in Lin's facilitating abilities than his lack of this trait.
Developing a Left Hand
Being able to mislead a defense is of unexplainable value. If you're unable to provide substance to your threat, however, there is no need to fear the fake.
In other words, why jump at a pump fake if you know that the player can't shoot? Why defend a shooter loose when you know he can't dribble? In Jeremy Lin's case, why fear versatility when he can't go left?
Lin was blowing by opponents with a quick crossover and a powerful right hand for the brief period of Linsanity. As the season progressed, however, teams began to realize one very important aspect of Jeremy Lin's attack.
He is helpless when forced to his left hand.
As Lin becomes the focal point of the Houston Rockets' offensive attack, it is imperative that he develops that aspect of his game. Defenses will close out on his right side and force him left every time he touches the ball.
If he's unable to go left with efficiency, a second period of Linsanity may never come.
Remain Grounded on Defense
During his 26 games as a key contributor for the New York Knicks, Lin averaged 2.0 steals per game. Such would convince statistical buffs that the Harvard alum is a sound defender, but the truth is, he is not.
Jeremy Lin is one of the weakest perimeter defenders at his position.
This is not to say that he is physically incapable of becoming a reliable weapon on the defensive end, as he is. At this point in his career, however, all we've seen from him are overzealous attempts in passing lanes and an overwhelming tendency to leave his feet.
From looking to get his hands on every ball to overextending on jump shots, Lin was constantly left out of position. As a result, his team's defense suffered.
The first step for Jeremy Lin's progression will be to improve upon his defensive tendencies. Lin must know when he should and should not attempt a steal, thus preventing his opponents from thriving in slashing to the basket with momentary space.
For Jeremy Lin to affirm his status as elite, he must either improve in said areas or be prepared for a long 2012-13 NBA season. Stardom comes with high praise and even more severe criticism.