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7 Bold Predictions for Jeremy Lin's First Season with Houston Rockets

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 7, 2016

7 Bold Predictions for Jeremy Lin's First Season with Houston Rockets

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    Looking back, the utter pandemonium Jeremy Lin caused last February must seem like a dream to him. He came out of nowhere, the last guy off the bench, and improbably took total control of the New York Knicks—and the NBA landscape—overnight.

    Too bad he’s about to wake up.

    The shiny newness of the Linsanity phenomenon wore off after just over a month of shocking play from Lin last season. He faded in March and a knee injury sidelined him for the Knicks’ abbreviated postseason run. But nobody seems to remember that part.

    Now a Houston Rocket—and a millionaire—Lin has lost one of the keys to his success last year: the element of surprise. This time, he’s supposed to play well.

    When you think about it, it’s a little ridiculous to ask Lin to duplicate his impressive February run. After all, Lin wasn’t the first benchwarmer to seize an opportunity on a bad team.

    But the Rockets’ surprising decision to give Lin $25 million (along with the public outcry against the Knicks’ decision to let him go) indicates that he’s expected to do it all again.

    With such a small sample size of NBA games in his career, it’s hard to know what we should reasonably expect from Lin this year.

    It’s probably accurate to say he’ll be among the league leaders in jersey sales, but that’s not exactly going out on a limb.

    Here are seven slightly bolder predictions for Jeremy Lin’s first season with the Houston Rockets.

Lin Will Lead the League in Turnovers

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    Last season, Jeremy Lin averaged 3.6 turnovers per game, good for seventh-worst in the NBA. Of course, he played just under 27 minutes per contest, so that statistic is a little misleading.

    Lin was actually much worse than that.

    Among qualified players, Lin’s average of 5.3 turnovers per 40 minutes played was the worst in the league. And we’ve seen how intense full-court pressure bothers Lin. Just ask the Miami Heat, who mercilessly hounded him into a 1-for-11 shooting performance with eight turnovers last season.

    He’s got the keys to Houston’s point-guard friendly offense, so he’ll get more minutes and touches than he’s ever had. That all adds up to make Lin a mortal lock to lead the NBA in throwaways.

Lin Will Struggle to Shoot 40 Percent from the Field

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    Last year—and last February in particular—Jeremy Lin’s jumper got uncharacteristically hot. He hit 47 percent of his shots from the field during that month.

    But history indicates that he’s just not a reliable shooter.

    Prior to his breakout February, Lin shot just a shade under 39 percent from the field as a Golden State Warrior in 2010-11 despite making an excellent 58 percent of his attempts at the rim. And after the calendar flipped to March last season, Lin’s field-goal percentage tumbled right back down to 40 percent.

    Look, Lin can get to the rim, but he’s a poor mid-range shooter and he’s awful from beyond the arc.

    His numbers during the preseason (28 percent from the field and 23 percent from three) certainly indicate that the 13 hot-shooting contests he enjoyed last February—and not the 51 other career games in which he was a bad shooter—were the outliers.

    With increased responsibilities this year, Lin may be required to take a higher number of difficult attempts as the shot clock winds down. That possibility, combined with Lin’s track record of shaky shooting, means he’ll struggle to keep his field-goal percentage north of 40.

Lin Will Register Career Highs in Points and Assists

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    Despite the strong likelihood that Lin will shoot poorly and lead the league in turnovers, he’ll still improve on his career-best scoring and passing numbers from a year ago.

    It might seem counterintuitive, but Lin will be on the floor (and have the basketball) so often that almost all of his counting stats are sure to spike.

    For starters, Lin’s brief career has been marked by an extremely high usage rate. He was in the top five among point guards last year in that category, with a rating of 28.03. That means only four other point guards were responsible for more plays than Lin was. He’s used to dominating the ball, and the Rockets expect him to do just that.

    In addition, Kevin McHale’s offensive scheme, which puts massive emphasis on ball-dominant point guards, resulted in career years for both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic last season. Both of those gentlemen are on new teams this year.

    Alone at the point, Lin is going to rack up buckets and assists by default. He’ll easily surpass his career highs.

Lin Will Lead the League in Steals

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    That’s right, in addition to possibly leading the NBA in giveaways, Lin has a legitimate shot to do the same in the takeaway department.

    And this one’s not much of a stretch.

    Chris Paul led the league with 2.5 steals per game last season, while Lin ranked 18th despite playing less than 27 minutes per contest.

    Per 40 minutes played, though, Lin averaged 2.33 steals.

    According to even the most negative scouting reports (Insider required), Lin gets credit as an extremely active defender who really does disrupt passing lanes, harass ball-handlers and give maximum effort. His steal rate certainly bears that out.

    With ample minutes assured this year, Lin has a great chance to pick enough pockets to lead the league.

The Houston Rockets Will Be in the Mix for the No. 8 Playoff Spot in the West

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    This one has more to do with the Rockets’ other personnel moves than it does with Lin, but he’ll still be a part of Houston’s potentially surprising rise.

    Until a few days ago, the Rockets were ticketed for the lottery. But now the pieces are starting to come together.

    James Harden, GM Daryl Morey’s monstrous acquisition from Oklahoma City, gives the Rockets a legitimate star on the wing. But he’s not all the rebuilding Rockets have.

    Omer Asik, known by savvy NBA minds to be among the NBA’s top five defensive players, is an absolute beast (Insider required) in the middle. Of course, he can’t catch the basketball or make free throws, but as a defensive force, he’s the best thing this side of Dwight Howard.

    And don’t forget, the Rockets have clean enough balance sheets to make multiple big moves if they want to. Plus, this is a franchise that has been over .500 in nine out of the last 10 seasons. Regardless of the players involved, the Rockets figure out a way to win.

    If things break right, Lin might find himself with a chance to play in his first postseason.

Lin Will Struggle to Mesh with James Harden

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    From the second Houston acquired James Harden, the Rockets became property of the Bearded One.

    There’s no question this is Harden’s team, which is a little bit of a problem for Lin.

    You see, Harden is among the NBA’s most efficient offensive operators and he needs the basketball in his hands. Unfortunately, that means Lin’s going to have to play off the ball more than originally expected.

    Put simply, Lin has virtually no offensive value when he doesn’t have the basketball.

    As we’ve established, Lin is a poor shooter. So turning him into a spot-up option while Harden expertly runs the pick-and-roll isn’t a great strategy. Lin’s real value is as a penetrator and foul-drawer; he drew more fouls per minute than any other guard in the NBA last year because he was so good at getting himself into the lane.

    He needs the basketball to do that.

    It’s not necessarily a knock on Lin to say he won’t work well with Harden. Instead, it’s simply undeniable that Harden is a much better player than Lin who needs the ball just as much.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Rockets’ new backcourt works (or doesn’t work) together.

Lin Will Never Be What He Was During Linsanity

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    We’ll end the way we began, by noting that Jeremy Lin enjoyed a brief but spectacular run for the Knicks last season. Nobody’s looking to take that away from him.

    He’s easy to root for and immensely likeable, which won’t change with a new uniform. But while the Rockets are getting the good parts of Lin—like his character and work ethic—they’re also taking on a player who simply isn’t capable of reproducing the level of performance he showed last February.

    We know that because he fell off precipitously in March. We know that because he had never done it before. And we know that because even during his best moments, the flaws in his game still showed.

    Jeremy Lin may end up being a pretty good player for the Rockets this season despite the holes in his game.

    But he won’t be the player he was.

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