Who might Lin pass to in the near future?
Jeremy Lin's fans—you can count me as one of 'em—can be a shockingly passionate bunch.
So let me make a few things clear before you click to the next slide.
Lin may not need help. The Houston Rockets point guard's play versus his former New York Knicks team was vintage Lin: aggressive, confident, and instinctual. The offense still did not flow through Lin for the most part, but Lin revved up toward the paint when he had his chances—and when he does that, defenders find him difficult to stop.
Lin may not need one new teammate (he may need four), but trading him won't be easy right now. This article will propose several trades which might help Lin get his game back on track. Still, there are many fans who believe the only way Lin will truly thrive is in an offense designed for his skill set: creating off the dribble and driving off high screens. And they believe that offense is somewhere other than Houston.
Since shooting guard James Harden's skill set is so similar to Lin's, yet the team seems more committed to Harden, I cannot argue with that logic, and in fact part of me agrees with that notion.
But bear this in mind: Lin carries a unique combination of limited experience, sky-high expectations, a spotty season thus far, and a fairly large contract. Finding a team who will make him their centerpiece—as it appeared Houston had done before the Harden trade—may be a tall order.
Houston is not going to trade Harden. Lin fans can hope for this all they want, but the reality is Harden is not going anywhere, and rightfully so.
At this moment in each player's career, Harden is the overall superior player, especially away from the ball. Houston's contract to Harden made it clear that he was their new superstar. And he is already playing at an All-Star level.
Regardless of the reasons Lin has struggled, the reality is he has struggled. Management would be mad to hitch their team's fortunes to the hopes that a struggling player will turn things around, rather than rest comfortably on the shoulders of an emerging star who has proven that he'll take it to the bank, game in and game out.
Working from the presumption, then, that Lin and Harden will remain together in Houston's backcourt for the time being, here are a few trade ideas that might serve as a catalyst to Lin's resurgence.
How he could help Lin: Anderson Varejao rebounds like a fiend, and is consistently among the league leaders in offensive boards. He'll help Lin by putting back his misses. In addition, he's unselfish and because he's not a great shooter, he won't demand the ball. He'll just make the most of whatever comes his way.
Could it happen? Varejao's contract is tailored for the Rockets' Moreyball approach: reasonable length, reasonable dollars, in return for excellent stats. He is averaging 13.8 points and 14.6 rebounds per contest.
Varejao is just 30. And if you think that's old, consider this incredible stat: Varejao's logged at least 3000 fewer career minutes than comparative youngsters Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay. So his legs still have plenty of miles in them. And heck, this team would benefit from someone with experience.
Varejao's player efficiency rating has consistently increased over the last few years to the point that he's 18th in the league in PER. The guy ought to be in consideration for an All-Star spot.
In addition, Varejao could move to power forward with the Rockets, giving the team matchup advantages.
Varejao is a fan favorite in Cleveland—and not just for his crazy mop of curly locks. He plays relentlessly, and he plays the right way. Put him in the frontcourt with Asik and to opponents, the Rockets' paint suddenly looks more like the no-fly zone.
So could it happen? Yep. But the Rockets have to give up something. And I apologize in advance for continuing to make Patrick Patterson the go-to guy on my trading block.
Honestly, I have nothing against Mr. Patterson, who had an impressive streak earlier this season and shows potential. But to get guys, you have to give up guys, and Patterson possesses the right combination of being attractive to other teams without devastating the Rockets' lineup if he leaves.
It's difficult to predict what the Cavs might want, but for Patterson, Daequan Cook's expiring contract and one of the Rockets' complicated but enticing draft picks, the deal might fly.
I'd make this trade.
How he could help Lin: Pau Gasol is a tremendous low-post option who is adept at passing and an unselfish teammate. With this additional target off the block, Lin's assist totals might be off the hook.
Could it happen? I know, I know, this trade cannot work monetarily. I've said it myself. And Gasol is just coming back from an extended stint on the bench with tendinitis in his knees. He's also on the back end of his career.
There are a lot of reasons not to make a trade. And in fact, it may be impossible to make this trade.
But the reality is, if the Rockets somehow got Gasol without having to give up any of their core players besides Patrick Patterson (again, no knock against PP), and Gasol can stay healthy, this team goes from young scrappers to playoff contenders.
Those of you who would disagree, make no mistake: Pau Gasol has proven himself to be an unquestionably elite player, who, like Lin, is hampered by the system he's in. Let's see how soft he looks on defense playing next to Omer Asik.
If it were me, would I make the trade? Probably not. But I also don't have the chilled-Evian-in-his-veins guts of general manager Daryl Morey. You never know: To energize the fanbase, Morey might be willing to make the deal if he somehow didn't have to give up too much.
P.S. To those of you who would prefer Amar´e Stoudemire as Lin's teammate: He's just as impossible to get, and, for me, brings back memories of the Linsanity decline. While Stoudemire probably dreams of Steve Nash passes in his sleep, and would theoretically cherish Lin's Nash-like style of play, I don't get the sense that Stoudemire is a big fan of Lin's. Finally, between Stoudemire and Gasol, the latter is more worthy of his contract money.
How he could help Lin: Redick's outside shooting will draw coverage, freeing Lin to do what he does best: attack.
Could it happen? Well, it's bizarre. But I think it's good bizarre—the "it's so crazy, it just might work" kind of bizarre.
With the addition of Redick, Houston would become the small-ball capital of the NBA. And the Rockets' offense, which is already somewhat chaotic, would become the wild, wild west of the Western Conference.
Redick is a dead-eye shooter from downtown, and that'll free up the middle for Lin and Harden to drive to the rim. Moreover, if the defense tightens in as they drive, they can dish back outside to a waiting J.J. for an open J.
My hesitation in completely embracing my own harebrained scheme is this: Despite Lin's inconsistency, despite the roster's youth, despite the backcourt still learning about each other, the Rockets are still in the hunt. As a team, Houston's offense is reasonably efficient (11th overall) and undeniably prolific (third overall in points scored). Moreover, they have beaten some impressive opponents and put scares into others. So reinventing their offensive identity is probably not the most conventional idea you'll read on this site.
But man, would it provide something to watch and cheer for.
Houston's attendance is 22nd in the league. This deal would absolutely move the needle on that number.
Redick is in the final year of a very reasonable contract, which would appeal to Morey. But at the same time, that means Morey wouldn't want to give up much, unless he could ensure that the Rockets lock up Redick for several years.
The Orlando Magic want draft picks or younger talent to deal Redick. Patterson, in addition to becoming more of a proven commodity, fits the youth bill. His appeal plus Cook's expiring contract—or maybe Patterson and an intriguing Toney Douglas—might be enough to entice Orlando if their play tapers off, which is likely: the Magic are currently winning more than their roster has a right to.