Jeremy Lin has the contract befitting of a starting point guard in the NBA, but reserve Patrick Beverley is making a push to take that title away from him. Beverley may not put up flashy numbers, but he's just the type of player the Houston Rockets need to be successful.
Aside from their points-per-game totals, Lin and Beverley have similar per-36-minute stat lines.
Beverley averaged (per 36 minutes) 11.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and just 2.2 turnovers per game during the 2012-13 season. His high rebound total is surprising for a 6'1" point guard, but, if nothing else, that speaks to his tenacity and aggressiveness.
Lin's stat line (again, per 36 minutes) consisted of 14.9 points, 6.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.2 turnovers per game. While his points and assists were higher, there's a clear difference between Beverley and Lin in rebounding, shot-blocking and ball security.
Fans of Lin will undoubtedly have problems with the proposal of starting Beverley. I'll give them that his experience and scoring potential are both better assets than what Beverley can bring to the table, but Beverley is a much better fit for the Rockets than Lin.
Lin could excel in a sixth man, combo-guard role. He could feasibly come in, play Manu Ginobili minutes off the bench and impact games in a much more explosive way. Playing fewer minutes (say, 25 per game) would keep Lin energized and give him the motivation to perform well when called upon.
Denying Beverley's fit on both offense and defense would be irresponsible of head coach Kevin McHale, who already has used Beverley in favor of Lin on more than one occasion. Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson claimed that Lin played so few minutes in fourth quarters because of his defense.
Beverley is not an elite defender, but his aggressiveness and fearlessness when guarding bigger players have made him the favorite point guard late in games for McHale.
Beverley plays like a small forward in a point guard's body, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. What's shocking about his per-36-minute rebound totals is that 2.3 of the 5.5 rebounds per game would have been offensive boards. He keeps possessions alive and shows the resiliency necessary to be a spark for Houston.
McHale's coaching style seems to favor Beverley, and it all comes down to how often James Harden touches the ball. His usage rate (USG) of 28.95 ranked him 11th in the NBA, with point guards John Wall (29.41), Kyrie Irving (30.23) and Russell Westbrook (32.65) among those ranked ahead of him (via Hoopdata.com).
Not only is Harden used a lot offensively—it's the way he's used that really makes the difference. By using the age-old eye test, it's easy to see that McHale loves employing the Harden-iso strategy. Harden routinely holds the ball for half of the shot clock (sometimes more), looking for a lane or opening. This puts his teammates in difficult situations when he passes to them with mere seconds to go on the clock.
This was not a strategy that benefited Lin, a scoring point guard who needs to have the ball in his hands. Lin is explosive off the dribble and is very good at making his way to the rim. With, say, three seconds left on the shot clock, though, doing so becomes very difficult.
Lin, who is actually a pretty underrated passer, would bring a different dynamic to the Rockets if he were given the playmaking responsibilities. His passing would get more people involved, but Harden may not like relying on Lin for opportunities.
Because McHale did not give Lin those opportunities in 2012-13, though, it's easy to see why Beverley is the better option.
Beverley does not command the ball in the same way Lin does. As a scoring point guard, Lin's expected to shoot a certain number of times per game in order to score his 12 to 15 points. Beverley does not carry those expectations with him.
He's not a great scorer. His shooting is a little below average (41.8 percent, although his three-point percentage of 37.5 is very good), and he lacks the creativeness on offense to create for himself.
Should Beverley start over Lin?
That being said, he's a great point guard to play with Harden. Beverley makes up for the defensive shortcomings of Harden with his tenacity and ability to play aggressive, lockdown defense on the perimeter. He also wouldn't need to have the ball in his hands as often as Lin, making Harden's USG much less controversial.
If McHale really wanted to make a change that would improve his team, he would see that Beverley is the point guard of the future in Houston. There's a reason Lin has surfaced in trade rumors recently. His salary is too high, and Beverley's presence makes him expendable.
Whether Lin is gone next season or not, Beverley should be the team's starting point guard. He has too much potential and can help the team in too many ways to be playing second fiddle to Lin. No disrespect to Lin (as I believe he's a starting point guard in the NBA), but I just don't see him as a great fit in Houston.