Jeremy Lin is still finding his way after the first two months as the point guard of the Houston Rockets. As he adapts to his teammates, they are learning how best to play around him. Which fellow Rockets are best suited to play with Lin?
First, it must be deciphered how Lin's talents are best used.
Lin is clearly an up-tempo point guard.
'Every team has a style,' McHale said. 'A lot of teams are trying to find that style. Once you find what works, you have to be dedicated to doing it.'
Lin can be the catalyst for the run-and-gun offense. He's young, quick and willing to push the pace.
Some of his greatest strengths (speed, quickness, change of direction) become his greatness weaknesses too. For every blow-by, acrobatic spin move and contorting drive in the lane, Rockets fans must deal with the out-of-control turnovers that decorate his stat line (nearly four turnovers per 36 minutes over the last two seasons).
But, the Rockets will take the good with the bad. They know they have to live with some of the mistakes in order to get the most out of Lin's skill set.
He just needs some running partners to come along with him. There are players already in place that can mesh with what McHale is preaching and what Lin is trying to create.
Young and versatile. That fits the bill.
Parsons can do a little bit of everything. His numbers (14.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.6 APG) are up across the board, and his percentages are improved as well.
With Lin getting out in transition, Parsons can fill the wing and finish at the rim.
In the half court, Parsons can find open space on the floor and spot up as Lin works off a screen-and-roll, readying himself for a three-pointer (Parsons is shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc this year).
Parsons does not need to dominate the ball to produce. He can let Lin handle it and work off the ball to complement Lin's assets.
I know, I know. The bulk of this season has been spent debating whether or not Lin and Harden can coexist in the same backcourt.
Both Harden and Lin work best with the ball in their hands. Last we checked, there is only one basketball allowed on the court at a time.
So, what gives?
Look, there is enough evidence to suggest these two are better suited with Harden in the starting lineup and Lin coming off the bench. Look at how Lin's production skyrockets when Harden is off the floor.
But, come on.
Harden and Lin are the two best players on the team. They are beginning to figure each other out more and more. They have a good working relationship, as it appears they both genuinely like each other and like PLAYING with each other.
The latter is usually the hardest part.
Both guys are able to get up and down the floor. So they should be interchangeable in that regard. One guy handles the ball. The other fills a wing.
When they have to run an offensive set, though, it is hard to conceive that these guys are not able to run some two-man sets or some quick hits (keeping with the up-tempo theme) to form a young and exciting backcourt tandem.
Not only is that the responsibility of Harden and Lin to figure out, but McHale MUST find a way to maximize both of their skill sets while they are on the floor together. Otherwise, one of your two best players will be forced to the sidelines in crunch time.
Patrick Patterson/Marcus Morris
Both Patterson and Morris fit the mold of an athletic power forward who can work with Lin in the pick-and-roll game.
Ideally, Omer Asik would be the prime pick-and-roll candidate to pair with Lin.
And, although it looks nice when it works, Asik's offensive game is too limited right now to force the defense's hand. In most cases, Asik's defender can help ward off Lin from getting to the basket and leave Asik alone on the perimeter, knowing his percentages are low from out there.
Back to Patterson and Morris. Both have big enough bodies to create a solid screen. Both have the range to knock down a 15- to 18-foot jumper consistently. Both can roll to the basket and finish at the rim.
It all comes back to this: Houston is an up-tempo team that wants to get out and run. They are second in the league with an average 105.8 points per game.
Jeremy Lin is a point guard who can dictate that pace. It is up to him to become a more efficient scorer and a more liberal distributor.
He needs guys around him who can keep up with him and be in the right spots for Lin to help them succeed. Guys like Harden, Parsons, Patterson and Morris have the motors and skill sets to enhance Lin's attributes and not detract from them.
But the Rockets are a Ford Mustang, not a Buick. Those horses are ready to run, not poised to take a family joy ride.
Be dedicated to the up-tempo style. If the Rockets can do that and put the right guys on the floor with Lin to carry out the plan, the Rockets will continue the success they have had in the early part of the season.
***Stats accurate as of January 1, 2013.