Now that the Houston Rockets have acquired reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder, point guard Jeremy Lin can breathe a sigh of relief. After signing a three-year, $25.1 million contract with Houston after breaking out over a one-month stretch with the New York Knicks last season, the Harvard grad was underwhelming in the preseason as he showcased good defense and passing, but struggled with his shooting. In a loss against the San Antonio Spurs, he shot just 1 of 10 from the field.
With Harden on the court with him, everything is set for Lin to improve as a guard and not try to be the go-to guy every time. Lin is talented, but gets a bit overeager when he has the ball and tries to shoot the lights out when his greatest strength is his passing and defense. Unless Mike D'Antoni becomes the Rockets' coach overnight, he should stick to getting the ball to his teammates, namely Harden, and only taking a shot when necessary. More importantly, if he is to score a basket, he should be driving the lane to draw a foul more so than relying on mid-rangers and threes.
In fact, coach Kevin McHale should immediately establish Harden as the team's leader on offense. Coming off the bench for Oklahoma City last season, the former Arizona State Sun Devil averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting an incredible 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from downtown. Those are video-game like numbers, at least in terms of the percentages, and Harden should continue to put up similar numbers in McHale's isolation system.
Had GM Daryl Morey not made this deal, the Rockets' shooting guard likely would have been Kevin Martin, with rookie Jeremy Lamb coming off the bench. Martin is a talented scorer, but his shot isn't nearly as accurate as Harden's. He shot just 41 percent from the field last season and injuries limited him to 40 games, making him far less durable than the man for whom he was just traded.
That said, had Martin been Lin's go-to scorer this season, chances are that the team-first Lin would have tried too hard to make up for any or all of Martin's mistakes as he tried to bring Houston back to prominence. Yet, with his impulsive shooting, he would do more harm than good.
However, Harden is more than just a top scorer to help Lin shoulder the load. He will also help take the weight off of Lin's shoulders by being a positive presence in the locker room as a whole. Though only 23-years-old, he has already accomplished more than most NBA players do in an entire career. He has been named Sixth Man of the Year, won an Olympic gold medal and played in the NBA Finals.
This experience will be of great value to Houston, who have two talented rookies on the roster in Royce White and Terrence Jones and are a young team in general. Harden has the fire in his belly to help keep the team in the hunt for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference and also be a positive locker room presence.
As a result, Lin had better get his wallet ready because at the end of the day, he's going to owe his new teammate a steak dinner. Without Harden, Lin easily could have become the goat in Houston's rebuilding season. Now that Harden is on the roster, the rebuilding surely won't take as long.
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