Jeremy Lin's Increased Role Is Exactly What Rockets Need Heading into Postseason

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 15:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets looks to pass during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Toyota Center on March 15, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Jeremy Lin is playing his best basketball of the year just in time to possibly help the Houston Rockets go far in the NBA playoffs.

The point guard has had a solid season in his first year with the club as he is third on the team in scoring, averaging 13.2 points and leads the squad in assists with 6.1 per game.

Even if James Harden often takes over on the offensive side of the court, Lin is still the catalyst of a Houston team on the brink of a playoff berth.

The problem is that Lin's role has fluctuated throughout the season. At times, he runs the offense and gets plenty of playing time. In other games, he barely sees 20 minutes as his inconsistent shooting along with his poor defensive effort has limited what he can do.

As a result, Lin saw his fewest average minutes in March, playing only 28.1 per game. It appeared that head coach Kevin McHale was trying his best to improve one of the worst defenses in the league.

In consecutive losses to the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies, the young Lin only combined for 43 minutes and 16 points.

However, various injuries have forced Lin into the spotlight. With Harden and Chandler Parsons in and out of the lineup over the past couple of weeks, it was up to the former Harvard star to take over.

Fortunately for Houston, he did just that. In the last five games, Lin is averaging 18.8 points and eight assists . He is also feeling more comfortable from three-point range, hitting 10-of-22 over that stretch for a 45.5 percent accuracy mark.

His outside shooting had actually increased dramatically since the beginning of the year (31.7 percent before the All-Star break and 40.3 percent afterwards), but he is now showing the confidence to shoot more often.

Most importantly, the Rockets are 4-1 during this time as they jockey for position in the standings.

Obviously, Houston will need a healthy Harden and Parsons in order to contend in the playoffs. No team can afford to be without its top two scorers and expect good things.

Still, Lin's increased role will give him confidence to succeed in the playoffs as well as prove to the coaching staff that he should be on the floor for most of the game. It also might not be the worst thing to let him handle the ball so he can be a solid distributor.

The top of the Western Conference is incredibly solid. However, the Rockets' ability to score can make them a dangerous team in any matchup.

The San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets are dealing with key injuries and a series against the Oklahoma City Thunder could be interesting revenge for Harden.

If everyone on Houston can play to their best and Lin is given the freedom to shine, the Rockets can pull off a surprise in the first round.