5 Simple Steps to Shutting Down Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin is finally settling into his proper place into the NBA hierarchy. He isn't the superstar that many trumpeted him to be during his magical run with the New York Knicks last year, nor is he an end-of-the-bench reserve who couldn't get run with the Golden State Warriors.
As a highly competent playmaker who can go off for 25 points and 10 assists on any given night, it's clear that Lin is one of those unique talents who opposing teams make note of on their pregame scouting reports. And much like every other player in the NBA, Lin has a few noticeable flaws in his game. By preventing the Rockets point guard from doing the things that he does best, it's not terribly difficult to keep Lin in check.
1) Don't Let Him Get to the Rim
When Jeremy Lin gets to the restricted area, he converts at a solid rate (50 percent). But from everywhere else on the floor, the Houston Rockets' playmaker is only shooting 21.5 percent.
It's natural for a player to shoot at a lower percentage the farther he gets from the hoop, but the drop-off in Lin's shooting percentage from beyond three feet is massive. Lin simply isn't a great shooter, and preventing him from attacking the rim all but robs him of his scoring ability. Opposing defenders would be well served in playing off of Lin and daring him to beat them with 16-foot jumpers.
2) Force Him to His Left
As this shot chart clearly shows, Jeremy Lin has an affinity for the right side of the court. We saw pretty much the same behavior last year, so there's little reason to believe that Lin will suddenly begin shooting from the left with any more regularity.
The Rockets' offense with Lin on the court consists largely of pick-and-rolls that lead Lin to drive to the right. With a plethora of data proving this point, it may be wise for teams to bring in a help defender from that side in order to discourage Lin from dribbling across the court. Lin's shooting percentage is fairly similar from both sides, but forcing him away from his "comfort zone" is the ideal option whenever possible.
3) Force Him into Isolation Situations
Jeremy Lin is extremely fast with the ball in his hands, but he doesn't perform well in basic isolation sets. According to Synergy Sports, Lin has run 17 iso plays this season (through Nov. 20) and has scored a grand total of zero points.
Furthermore, Lin has turned the ball over 35.3 percent of the time while in isolation situations. While the Rockets point guard has done an admirable job in cutting down on his careless mistakes—his turnovers-per-36-minutes average is nearly half of what it was in 2011-12—he still struggles when matched up one-on-one against a defender.
4) Intense On-Ball Defense
The Miami Heat created the blueprint on how to stop Jeremy Lin last February when they held him to eight points (on 1-of-11 shooting) and caused him to commit eight turnovers.
Lin simply couldn't handle Miami's stifling defensive pressure, some of which began as soon as the Knicks inbounded the ball. Things only got worse for Lin whenever he attempted to attack the basket: The Heat defense collapsed on the driving Lin, forcing him to either give up the ball or take an ill-advised shot.
Of course, with Lin's change of scenery this offseason, that same strategy will need to be altered a bit. With James Harden lighting it up for the Rockets, opposing teams will need to be a bit more creative when devising schemes to slow down Houston's dynamic point guard.
5) Make Him Work on Defense
Jeremy Lin's game relies largely on speed, so by making him expend energy on the defensive end, his offense is almost certain to suffer to an extent.
For what it's worth, the 6'3" Lin is a better-than-average defender: According to Synergy Sports, he has allowed a mere 0.76 points per possession in 2012-13 (70th in the NBA). Lin isn't overly athletic, but he wants to play defense, and that desire makes him a nuisance to point guards throughout the league.
If opposing coaches force Lin to run through and/or around screens while chasing his defensive assignment, it stands to reason that he'll be less willing and/or physically able to attack the basket when he has the ball in his hands.