3 Things Jeremy Lin Has Improved on Since Bursting onto NBA Scene

Marshall ZweigContributor IIJanuary 6, 2013

3 Things Jeremy Lin Has Improved on Since Bursting onto NBA Scene

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    Moments of glory, stunning surprises, epic twists. Were this to describe another NBA player's career, it would almost certainly be a grizzled veteran.

    Jeremy Lin is to grizzled as Dennis Rodman is to altar boy.

    Lin has started fewer than a full season's worth of games. Yet his professional basketball experience has unfolded like a Shakespearean drama—minus the part where everyone's lying dead on stage:

    Act I: The meteoric rise. An undrafted Harvard graduate bouncing from NBA team to NBA team gets a chance to start—and grabs the job like Lou Gehrig grabbed Wally Pipp's. All of New York, all of America, all the world is captivated by Lin's story and Lin's play.

    Act II: The spectacular fall. The superstar complains. The offense changes. The shots stop falling. The winning ends. The coach is fired. Then come injury, a new team, a surprise signing, relegation to second fiddle, learning a new shot, losing ball-handling duties.

    All of this resulted in a difficult debut in Houston, to say the least.

    From this season's opening tip to to November 23, a span of 13 games, Lin shot higher than 50 percent a grand total of zero times. Shot 50 percent twice. Every other game, Lin's shot was worse than a Prairie Oyster that's been sitting out in Texas heat for a week.

    Act III: The resurrection. The shots start to fall. In the ten games from November 27 to December 16, Lin shot 50 percent or more five times. In the 11 games since, he's shot 50 percent or more six times. The winning returns. The grinning returns. A star is reborn, slowly but surely.

    In his rise, fall and rise, Lin must have learned a thing or two, right? About fame? Yes. About life? Certainly. About his game?

    Say, that sounds like a good idea for an article.

    In what areas of his game has Jeremy Lin improved since that fateful February 4, 2012, on Seventh Avenue?

Turnovers

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    Looking at the season statistics, it's easy to see that Lin has reduced his turnovers per game from 3.6 last year to three this year. Per 48 minutes, the drop is even more dramatic: Lin's turnovers went from 6.5 last year to 4.4 this year.

    If you're still not impressed, consider this: Per 48 minutes, Rajon Rondo averages 4.7 turnovers. So does Russell Westbrook. And even James Harden averages 4.4, same as Lin.

    Some might say the reason for this drop is that Lin doesn't have the ball in his hands as often this year because of the two-headed point guard offense run by Lin and Harden. Okay, fine. Maybe that's true. It can't be proven.

    But think about it like this: Kyrie Irving, in his second year, averages 5.2 turnovers per 48. Brandon Knight, in his second year, averages 4.5 per 48.

    Lin, by comparison, has started just 59 games—still well under than a season's worth.

    Every point guard has to learn ball-handling at the NBA level. Jeremy seems to be doing just that…and doing it just fine, thank you.

Steals

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    If Lin were a bank robber, he'd be Jesse James. Lin is ninth in the league in steals per 48 minutes, averaging 2.74.

    That's about the same rate as last year's season average. But in his last 13 games as a Knick—after the height of Linsanity—Lin had faded to a clip of 2.56 per 48 minutes. This season, despite his shooting woes and the new offensive scheme, Lin managed to keep and enhance his ball-swiping skills.

    Lin's per-48 average puts him in pretty rarefied company, ahead of guys like Rajon Rondo and future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili.

    Most pleasingly for Daryl Morey, however, is how Lin stacks up against Goran Dragic (2.31) and Kyle Lowry (2.43).

    Interestingly, Lin's backup, Toney Douglas, is also a ball hawk, averaging 2.37 steals per 48 minutes. So Morey really upgraded the defense in his high-speed reshaping of Houston's point guard position.

Durability

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    Lin started 25 games last year. This year, he's already started 34.

    Granted, Lin's season was cut short last year by surgery. And last year's post-Linsanity fading statistics and waning playing time were likely because of the injury that necessitated the surgery.

    But bear in mind, as recently as mid-October there were reports that Lin had not fully healed from his knee surgery. Some even speculate that Lin's slow recovery concerned the Rockets enough to aggressively pursue—and eventually get—Lin's backcourt partner, James Harden.

    Yet Lin has not missed a game this year, even when he sustained a cut against the Bucks that was severe enough to require five stitches. Lin missed a total of eight minutes, and upon his return, notched three assists and three steals and scored six points.

    Simply put, it's going to take more than a head wound to stop Jeremy Lin.

In Conclusion

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    There may have never been a more auspicious debut than Lin's. It seems incomprehensible that we would be writing an article on his improvements over Linsanity, especially considering Lin's well-documented struggles earlier this season.

    Yet considering Lin's character and work ethic, it would be difficult to believe anything else.

    Lin has done everything asked of him this year—and a fair amount was asked from him in going from the team's featured superstar to second banana, and from an offense predicated on his running it to playing without the ball in his hands a majority of the time. And bear in mind, all of this happened to him before he had started half a season's worth of games in his career.

    Lin seems to have weathered the storms.

    No one questions that Lin must continue to improve his outside shooting: While Lin is deadly at the rim—shooting close to 65 percent—Lin's shooting percentage drops to 40 percent from 3-9 feet, and steadiy declines the further he gets from the basket.

    Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, though, Lin was 3-5 from downtown, and looked very comfortable shooting the three-ball.

    in general, Lin's shooting touch seems to have returned, and his shooting percentage has steadily climbed. In addition, Lin has learned how to play his aggressive game while still sharing ball-handling duties with Harden.

    The result: The Rockets have won four straight, and 12 of their past 15.

    The moral of the story? The Rockets win when they involve Lin.