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Jeremy Lin Must Play at All-Star Level for Houston Rockets to Contend for Title

Jeremy Lin could make the Rockets serious contenders.
Jeremy Lin could make the Rockets serious contenders.Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2013

The Houston Rockets made a huge splash this offseason, but they need Jeremy Lin to play at an All-Star level in order to have any chance of winning a title this season.

Championships will now be expected in Houston. James Harden turned into a superstar last season, and Dwight Howard signed with the team in the offseason. 

This team will have to deal with high expectations, but it will still take some time for the players to learn to work together. The Miami Heat couldn't win a championship in their first season together, so it could take a year or two for the Rockets to live up to their potential.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported last month that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has no intentions to trade either Lin or center Omer Asik.

With a superstar scorer in Harden and two very good big men, the Rockets appear to be on the verge of contending for a championship this season. 

Lin will now be expected to be a guy who puts the team over the top. 

The Rockets will have a good balance of shooters and big men next season, and the shooters will have more open shots with Howard in the paint. 

Although he had a very productive 2012-13 season, Lin didn't turn into the superstar that many expected him to be. This is the same player who took the world by surprise two seasons ago, so he has shown the potential to put up points.

His numbers went down slightly after leaving New York, but that may have been the result of playing in more games. His numbers with the Knicks were put up in less than half of a season, but he was able to maintain them once he got a chance to play every game.

Lin averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and three rebounds per game last season. His biggest improvement was his ability to cut down on the turnovers, and he got that number down to 2.88 per game after struggling with turnovers in New York.

He shot 44 percent from the floor, and he improved his three-point shooting to nearly 34 percent.

It was a learning process for Lin to play alongside Harden last season. The two had to learn each other's style, and Harden turned into one of the league's best players. Lin had to accept that he wasn't the best scorer on the team, but he still was able to make an impact by scoring.

Now Lin will be expected to play a bigger role. 

Teams will plan around Harden and Howard. Those two players have shown they are dominant players, and they will now need other players to make plays.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and the Heat have three superstars. The San Antonio Spurs are loaded with aging stars, and the Chicago Bulls have two young stars. It's going to take more than Harden and Howard to knock off any of those contenders.

Houston doesn't need Lin to score 30 points every night. It needs him to knock down open shots and force teams to cover him. He shot well last season, but the team would be even better if he could improve a little more, mainly from three-point range.  

If Lin can hit open shots and knock down some three-pointers, Houston is going to be tough to beat.

Another thing that will help Lin is that he will finally get to stay with a team for more than one season. He has played each of the last three seasons with a different team, but he will finally get a chance to play in the same system. There will be some growing pains with Howard now on the team, but many of the players know how to work with each other.

The Rockets will be expected to be among the league's best this season. If they don't win, it won't be because of Lin. However, he could be the piece that puts them over the top.

Lin was once a superstar in this league, and the Rockets would be serious contenders if he gets back to playing at a high level. 

 

*All stats are courtesy of NBA.com

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