Hypothetically, if the Houston Rockets were to trade Jeremy Lin, they could get a solid role player in return. The popular point guard has improved over the last two seasons and has developed into a valuable asset.
Lin is coming off a decent first year with the Rockets. He played in all but two of Houston's games last year, making 85 starts (including playoffs). He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists a night during the regular season, while also shooting 44 percent from the field.
The Harvard product has proven himself worthy of being a starter in this league. How he plays alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden going forward will be a huge factor in whether or not he stays in Houston.
With Howard and Harden absorbing the spotlight, Lin is in prime position to fly under the radar and have a big year. Still, there is incentive for Houston to dangle the soon-to-be 25-year-old.
Why The Rockets Would Trade Jeremy Lin
Before the always-rational Lin supporters come after me, the key word in this sub-headline is "would". This isn't a campaign for Houston to trade Jeremy Lin. He has already bounced around the league more than a player his age should and he deserves a shot at sticking with a franchise.
This is merely an assessment of his value should the Rockets decide to go in another direction at point guard. The team has a couple reasons why it might want to make a deal.
First, Lin is set to make $5.2 million this year, but his cap hit will be $8.3 million. With so much money tied up in Howard and Harden, Houston may find Lin's salary a bit too pricey for a fourth wheel.
Second, they have a capable backup in Patrick Beverley. The former Arkansas star filled in admirably during the playoffs when Lin went down with a chest injury and is on a significantly cheaper contract ($788K for this season with a team option for just under $1 million next year).
Whether Beverley is able to handle a full-time starting role remains to be seen, but he gives the Rockets a quality Plan B at point guard.
Now, if Lin flourishes playing with Houston's new "Big Three", the team will have an interesting decision on their hands come next season.
What The Rockets Need
With Dwight Howard now in the fold, the starting lineup rounds out quite nicely. The only real weakness is at power forward, which will be manned by either former starting center Omer Asik or talented prospect Terrence Jones. Lithuanian big man Donatas Motiejunas will also factor into the equation at the 4.
The team could also use some depth at small forward, where an upgrade over Omri Casspi and Reggie Williams on the second unit wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Someone with the capability of playing multiple positions would allow the team to have some flexibility with their rotation.
What Teams Make Sense For A Possible Trade
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of Houston trading Lin is the overwhelming depth at point guard. Through the draft and free agency, many teams are set at the 1. Some teams, such as the Phoenix Suns, are two or three players deep at the position.
Still, there are a couple teams that could use Lin's services.
The Orlando Magic could use some youth at point guard. Veteran Jameer Nelson is entrenched as the starter, but he will be 32 in February. The team kicked the tires on a potential deal for Eric Bledsoe, but came up unsuccessful.
In this case, the Magic could send Arron Afflalo to Houston in exchange for Lin. Afflalo averaged 16.5 points per game for Orlando last season. He's also a career 38 percent shooter from behind the arc. He would give the Rockets an offensive weapon on the second unit.
As for Orlando, pairing Lin with rookie Victor Oladipo gives the team a nice, young backcourt tandem for the next few years. It would also give them more incentive to move Nelson and continue with the rebuilding process.
Another possibility is the Philadelphia 76ers. Like the Magic, the Sixers are in rebuilding mode. They have a young point guard in rookie Michael Carter-Williams. However, the Syracuse guard struggled shooting the ball in the Summer League (27 percent from the field, just under 16 percent from three) and is still too raw to start.
The team could use Lin as a stopgap option that would allow Carter-Williams to be brought along slowly. In exchange, the Sixers could send forward Thaddeus Young to Houston. Young would give the Rockets a proven option at power forward. Houston could also throw in someone like Terrence Jones to sweeten the deal.
The Houston Rockets have a scary trio in Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons. In Jeremy Lin, they have an adequate point guard that also doubles as a valuable trade chip. As he continues to develop, the market for Linsanity will only get better.
The smart move for Houston is to hang on to Lin this season and see how he improves playing with this star-studded core. Trading Lin right now would only net the team another pricey role player. He deserves a chance to make his mark.
Only time will tell where that mark will be made.
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