Is Jeremy Lin the Toughest Player to Evaluate in the NBA?
Basketball is different from other sports in terms of how predictable it is (well, it is different for other reasons also, but we aren't addressing those today). Barring injury, LeBron James and Kevin Durant should be top-three players next season. The Heat will be really good, as they were the past two seasons. The Bobcats are sure to not be very good, just like last year. Adam Morrison won't suddenly put it all together and average 25 points on 50 percent shooting.
Though there is a success correlation from year to year in most sports, it's not nearly as strong. This is a blessing and curse for hoops. On the one hand, the stars stay relevant over long periods of time. On the other, predictability isn't exactly an excitement-stoker, and much of the league has little hope for advancement.
But rest assured, there are still mysteries in this league, players who confound analysis. Chief among them would be Jeremy Lin. The man has played 64 career games, including two glorious weeks in the spotlight. He did this to the Lakers:
And the Heat did this to him:
Make of that what you will. The Houston Rockets are betting on the former version, perhaps the Knicks feared the latter version. In the early preseason, Lin looks more the latter, going .211 from the field through three games. It's early though, and Lin's recovering from knee surgery, which further complicates matters.
An odd Lin quirk would be that he fares better in a star role than as an ancillary player. When he was the focal point of Mike D'Antoni's offense, the second-year PG was incandescent. When Jeremy Lin had to be a peripheral player alongside Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy struggled to produce.
The Rockets are taking an all-or-nothing gamble with Jeremy Lin. He's a player best-suited to playing as a star, constantly probing and prodding defenses. With his balky outside shot, it is doubtful that Lin can help a team in any other way. So, if Jeremy Lin isn't the "Linsanity!" supernova of those two magical weeks, Houston will be hard-pressed to get value from him in any other way. With such a small sample size, and success in such a specific role, Jeremy Lin is incredibly hard to figure.
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