In the first year of a three-year contract he signed over the summer, Lin has been generally disappointing. Last year's "Linsanity" has only come in spurts, as the Harvard grad is averaging just 12.8 points and 6.2 assists per game, though he does rank fifth with 1.9 steals per game.
This can be attributed to one simple fact. Prior to the deadline, the Rockets' roster was not fully stocked with players who were ideal fits for head coach Kevin McHale's run-and-gun offense. Save for Lin, James Harden and Omer Asik, plus the ever-adjusting Chandler Parsons, everyone else was essentially a poor fit or a weak one, especially Patrick Patterson.
As a result, Houston's offense became fairly predictable. Since Asik is still a raw offensive talent, Lin opted to let Harden run the show most of the time and only scored and passed as necessary rather than get into full playmaker mode. Without a reliable stretch 4, the Rockets seemed destined to be a merely average team.
As we have seen through Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense and the struggles of both the team and Pau Gasol this season, having a reliable power forward is critical in this type of approach. Since Patterson is more of a post player and not so much a scoring threat, it's no wonder he was such a poor fit under McHale and that Lin's production suffered as a result.
But the team is such right now that Lin can finally reach his full potential in Houston and be the high-scoring and passing point guard that he was for a brief stretch in New York last season. GM Daryl Morey saw that the team was struggling as it was and thus chose to cut the dead weight that was holding it back.
Not only was Marcus Morris sent to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick, but Morey also sent Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich to the Sacramento Kings for a package of players headlined by rookie Thomas Robinson.
The No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson struggled to find minutes in Sacramento playing behind DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. He's only posted 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds over 15.9 minutes per game this season. But his playing time will increase in Houston, as will his production since he won't be asked to be a post player.
Instead, he'll be the stretch 4 he was at Kansas and that the Rockets and Lin need in order to climb higher than No. 8 in the highly competitive Western Conference.
For Lin, this means that his assist total will climb over the remainder of the regular season. No longer will he have to overly rely on Harden and Parsons or roll the dice when getting the ball to Asik. He now has a teammate with solid size at 6'10", 237 pounds who can drive the lane and has reliable touch with a jump shot.
Lin can also look forward to potentially having Terrence Jones on the court with him. The rookie has spent most of the season in the D-League, but he averaged 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds in 17 games there. Now that he has a chance to play more in the NBA, the Rockets will be all the more complete.
This means that, at long last, Lin will start living up to the hype in Houston. How far the Linsanity goes remains to be seen, but he should be a near-lock to average about 15 points and nine assists for the rest of the season.
His improved play, combined with the fact that Houston now has a roster that actually fits the coach's system, will only spell out good things for the Rockets and will finally get them back in contention after a long absence.
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