The skeptics said he was a one-hit wonder who shouldn’t have gotten a $25 million contract after only 25 games. The believers said he needed more experience.
It was a largely inconsistent year, hit-or-miss each game as his confidence level fluctuated.
There was the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in late December, where Lin had seven turnovers—tying a season high—and just one assist. But there was the game the day before (Christmas Day) against the Chicago Bulls, where Lin dazzled with 11 assists and 20 points on 66.7 percent from the floor.
In his first year as a full-time starter in the NBA, Lin clearly went through adversity. However, he made great improvements through the course of the season while adapting to his role in the offense.
He is a solid on-ball defender and finished the season with respectable offensive statistics (13.4 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting and 6.1 assists per game).
Still, for a player whose performances are put in the spotlight every game, there is plenty that Lin has to do to polish his game and maximize his potential in a Rockets uniform.
As a point guard, you are relied upon to make plays, and therefore you are looking to get your teammates involved each time up the floor. The problem was that Lin was 10th in the NBA with 236 turnovers. His teammate, James Harden, led the league with 295 turnovers.
Lin would dump the ball off to Harden on the majority of possessions; when he did facilitate the offense, he was prone to making ill-advised passes. This can be partly attributed to his aggressive style of play.
Of his 236 turnovers, 131 were caused by bad passes and 89 were due to ball-handling, per 82games.
This problem ties in with decision-making. He is a crafty player who got into the lane to draw the defense, but he struggled with his kick-out passes.
Often times, Lin drove the lane and left his feet without having made a decision as to what he was going to do with the ball. It resulted in a lot of those ill-advised passes or traveling violations.
To improve, he doesn't want to be less aggressive, merely more conscientious of what's going on around him.
The problem was mostly mental. He was hesitant because he didn’t want to make mistakes. Experience will play a huge part in reducing his turnovers, but he absolutely must work on making more efficient passes this summer.
Lin, with a full season under his belt, will become more confident with time and will learn the right situations to pass, shoot or draw contact for a foul.
Among point guards who played at least 20 minutes per game in 2012-13, Lin’s turnover ratio of 13.5 ranked fifth-worst, per ESPN’s Hollinger Stats. Of the 82 qualified point guards, Lin was 69th.
The ability to cut down his turnovers and make better, quicker decisions with the ball in his hands will ultimately determine his success.
Consistency with Jump Shot
In the offseason, Lin needs to spend countless hours in the gym. A player who took more spot-up jumpers rather than regularly controlling the offense, he was too inconsistent shooting in 2012-13.
He would have stellar performances and then turn around with a dud. On March 20, Lin shot 9-of-13 from the field for 24 points against the Utah Jazz. He followed that outing with four points on 2-of-7 shooting against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Granted, both of these games were wins and that’s all Lin really cares about, but from a personal viewpoint, it’s all about consistency.
To sustain success and be on the court in crunch time, you have to be consistent. Confidence plays a huge factor, and in a lot of those “dud” games, Lin played extremely tentatively.
What should be at the top of Lin's to-do list this offseason?
As a point guard, you don’t have to take 15 shots a game, as long as you're effective. There were games in which Lin was 5-of-5 from the floor (12 points), even 4-of-8 (15 points)—yet those were effective games that resulted in wins.
He had five 2-of-9 games in the regular season and a 2-of-13 game. In those games, the Rockets were 1-5 and Lin was heavily scrutinized.
Dedication and commitment will allow Lin to improve his shooting and his offense as a whole.
The main thing Lin has to do is build confidence. If he’s confident, his shooting will be more consistent. And he won’t be so turnover-prone.
Keep Developing Left Hand
In New York, a major weakness was Lin’s ability to go to the left. He could barely dribble with his left hand, let alone drive to the left.
In Houston, that has become a focus area for Lin. He has worked diligently on using his left hand, but he still has trouble finishing, even when laying it in from the left side.
In the video below, you can see him warming up with his left-handed dribble and driving to the left side of the lane. What you don’t see is Lin finishing at the rim with that hand.
To be a complete player, he has to keep developing that area. It’s no longer a weakness and he can drive-and-kick while going left, but it would make him that much more dangerous if he could take it up with his opposite hand.
Even his outside shooting heavily favored the right side. Now a lot of times that’s just where Lin was positioned on the floor, but he took a total of 131 shots from the left side of the court compared to 238 on the right side, as evidenced on NBA.com's shot chart and the Vorped shot chart above.
Spending the offseason favoring his left hand—which he practiced in the playoffs when he was injured—can only help Lin in the long run.
If he wants to maximize his potential, the constant development of his left hand is key.
The best is yet to come for Lin and the Rockets, and an offseason dedicated to efficiency and working on consistency will allow Houston to take the next step.