Many Houston Rockets fans love Jeremy Lin, but trading him this offseason would be the best move for him and the team. The acquisition of Dwight Howard pushes the Rockets further away from operating in Lin's comfort zones. ESPN's Bradford Doolittle examined the concept of moving Lin and Omer Asik earlier this month.
Signing Lin during the summer of 2012 made sense for the Houston Rockets. He had an eye-popping stretch with the New York Knicks that set off a bidding war of sorts for his services. During the process he attained an exceptional rise in popularity.
At only 23-years-old at the time, Lin seemed to be on the rise on the court and in regards to fame. The acquisition was designed to result in more wins and more butts in seats at the Toyota Center. The Rockets did return to the playoffs as an eighth seed, they won 45 games, but Lin's contributions probably only ranked fourth on the team in regards to overall value during the season.
Amongst Rockets players who played at least 40 games, Lin was tied with Omer Asik for sixth in PER (Player Efficiency Rating).
Still, it is clear to see why the Rockets fought hard to acquire Lin.
Financially speaking, this deal was part genius and part short-sighted gamble. Committing to a deal that is scheduled to pay Lin nearly $15 million in the final year of his three-year $25 million contract was risky to say the least.
It was the type of contract that handcuffed the New York Knicks' ability to retain him, but it also put an enormous amount of pressure on Lin to perform. While he didn't have a completely dreadful season (13.4 points and 6.1 assists), he certainly doesn't appear to be on the path to warrant such a rich deal—even for one year.
At 24 years old, Lin still has some room for improvement, but stylistically he'll never be the best fit at point guard for this Rockets team.
Lin needs the ball in his hands to be effective. He needs to have the freedom to pound the dribble, probe, attack or dish to cutters and shooters. He'll never be able to play that way with Harden and Dwight Howard.
Those two players demand the ball and their talents validate the offense running through them. The best point guard to play with Harden and Howard is a lead guard who excels playing off the ball—primarily as a spot-up shooter. That isn't Lin.
Take a look at his shot chart from the 2012-13 season. Yellow areas indicate Lin is comparable to league average from those spots, green is above average and red is below average:
While all of these shots didn't come as a spot-up shooter, Lin's jump shot is average at best and that isn't ideal for a guard playing with Howard and Harden.
Should the Rockets trade Lin?
If Lin struggles next season, you can almost bet he'll be blamed, blasted and criticized for being overpaid. Little thought will be given to the fact that he's playing in a system with players that don't give him the best chance to shine.
Moreover, a subpar or mediocre season will make Lin even harder to trade. When you consider the fact that his deal is due to nearly triple for the 2014-15 season, he'll become perhaps the most difficult expiring contract to trade in the NBA.
For the team and Lin's sake, the Rockets should aggressively seek to move him while his deal still has a glimmer of upside. If Houston waits too long, Lin's original deal with the team will come and go bearing little to no positive results for either party.
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