When the Houston Rockets acquired Jeremy Lin this offseason, many expected the rising star to become the organization's franchise player. James Harden's arrival and Kevin McHale's coaching tactics have since created a different path for Lin.
Most notably, Lin's inconsistent fourth-quarter minutes continue to stunt his development.
During the Houston Rockets' 117-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Lin saw one minute and 51 seconds of playing time during the fourth quarter. With that being said, Lin was also in foul trouble.
Unfortunately, Lin seeing the bench late has been consistent regardless of foul trouble.
This issue started in November, as Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson claimed Lin was benched during fourth quarters because of his defense (via NBA.com). Since then, we've seen more of the same.
The question is, what does Sampson believe improves when Lin is on the bench?
According to NBA.com, the Rockets are allowing 102.4 points per 48 minutes when Lin is on the floor. That numbers drops to 102.0 points per 48 when Lin is riding the pine.
Not so fast.
NBA.com proceeds to report that the Rockets are allowing 103.9 points per 100 possessions with Lin on the floor. That number rises to 104.3 when Lin is off the floor.
In other words, the Rockets are actually a better defensive team when Lin is on the floor.
With this being known, it remains unclear as to why the Rockets would leave Lin on the bench. With all due respect to Patrick Beverley and Toney Douglas, it appears as if Lin has the higher ceiling.
Until his minutes hit a more consistent level, Lin will continue to come up short of reaching his potential.
Develop or Give Up on Harden and Lin
Thus far in 2012-13, Jeremy Lin is averaging 18.3 points and 8.9 assists per 48 minutes in which James Harden is on the bench. When Harden is on the floor, those numbers drop to 12.9 points and 6.3 assists.
Perhaps most concerning of all, Lin is shooting 43 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three with Harden on the floor. Those numbers jump to 47 percent from the field and 48 percent from distance when Harden is on the bench.
The Rockets must either abandon their current pairing of Harden and Lin altogether or commit to developing the tandem.
From a financial perspective, the Rockets have committed to Harden and Lin as a duo. Lin averages roughly $8.4 million over the next three years, while Harden averages $16.0 million.
Unfortunately, the minutes and strategy fail to match the money.
The Rockets defer to Harden in virtually every scenario. This forces Lin, the point guard, to play off the ball and step in to play based off of his weaknesses.
Lin is one of the league's better dribble penetrators, yet he's being forced to become a spot-up shooter.
Until the Rockets' coaching staff figures out a way to use Lin on-ball and Harden off of it, the Harvard graduate will continue to struggle. Should a balance be created, however, both men can thrive.
The ball is in coach Kevin McHale's court, in that sense.
Proven Fourth-Quarter Performer
During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, Jeremy Lin shot 49.5 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter. He also converted 56.3 percent of his fourth-quarter three-point attempts.
In other words, Lin was straight-up clutch.
In 2012-13, Lin is fifth on the Houston Rockets in terms of fourth-quarter field-goal attempts. Surprisingly, second on the team is Toney Douglas.
The backup point guard who has taken Lin's place come the fourth quarter.
By comparison, Lin is shooting 41.7 percent on fourth-quarter field goals. Douglas rests at 39.4 percent in that capacity.
So why not make the switch?
Lin may not be performing at an All-Star caliber, but he's proven to be a player that shines in the spotlight. There is no brighter light than those that shine in the fourth quarter.
So why not let Lin do what he does best and take over in the fourth quarter?
Until the Rockets allow Lin to thrive in his most comfortable setting, he will continue to struggle in Houston. The Harvard graduate thrives in clutch situations and is clearly at his best when the ball is in his hands.
The question is, when will coach Kevin McHale allow him to play in the manner most comfortable to him?
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