After Jeremy Lin's emergence with the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 campaign, the flavor of "Linsanity" wasn't nearly the same in 2012-13. He exhibited an underwhelming first season with the Houston Rockets.
Will Lin live up to the expectations in 2013-14?
It's a question worth much exploration, because Lin's development could hold the keys to Houston's ceiling. The addition of Dwight Howard should take some pressure off of Lin—the combination of Howard and James Harden should drive the Rockets.
Therefore, will Lin thrive in his given role as a potential X-factor?
What are the Expectations?
We must first define what the expectations are for Lin. Returning to his breakout stretch with the Knicks, we gather eye-popping per-36 numbers as follows (via Basketball-Reference): 19.6 points per game, 8.3 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 2.1 steals per game and 4.8 turnovers per outing.
Aside from the high turnover clip, Lin's production was decidedly impressive. Compare this with his per-36 stat line from 2012-13 with Houston: 14.9 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG and 3.2 TPG.
Lin's brief stint in the Big Apple created lofty expectations for him going forward. He notched performances that raised eyebrows across the NBA landscape, such as a 38-point outburst against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lin had us convinced he was a budding superstar. It appeared he was overlooked by many scouts throughout his hoops journey, and his stirring display with the Knicks was thus loaded with "linspiration."
And confusion. Did this guy legitimately slip through the cracks when he was really this good?
And skepticism. Is he really this good?
Nearly two years later, we see a fuller picture. Lin busted onto the NBA scene in the middle of the 2011-12 season, when there was minimal time to scout him or analyze his tendencies. Plus, his presence with the Knicks was a small sample size. He only started 25 regular-season games, not nearly enough to validate if a player is for real or not.
But the luster of Linsanity was so consuming that his future expectations skyrocketed. What he produced in New York was expected to be emulated amid forthcoming years, evidenced by the three-year, $25 million contract he nabbed with Houston.
This reveals that the expectations saddled on Lin were too weighty, or perhaps they were handed out prematurely. We saw a glimmer of his career, and it was thrilling. But it was still just a glimmer.
Now, entering his second season with the Rockets, he is trying to meet expectations that he was likely never fit to meet. When examining Lin's all-around game in depth, it becomes apparent that while he is a respectable player, he'll almost surely never reach the expectations that the fever of Linsanity dealt him.
The following analysis magnifies this.
He is an Average to Slightly Above Average Point Guard
Offensively, Lin accumulated a per-48 minute PER of 15.0 last season, per 82games.com. From a defensive standpoint, his counterpart notched a per-48 minute PER of 16.9.
This means that his net 48-minute production as a point guard stood at minus-1.9. Simply put, he was typically outplayed by his counterpart.
The following chart magnifies where Lin stands in this category amongst other notable point guards.
With this in view, it's difficult to justify Lin as an upper echelon point guard. It's also hard to foresee him becoming one when there is such a wide margin between his net production and that of other prominent floor generals.
Lin is most definitely serviceable, but the aura of Super Lintendo demands more than competency. The likelihood, however, is that Lin carves his niche as an average to slightly above average point guard.
He should contribute in numerous ways for Houston, but any anticipation about him developing into an All-Star should be destroyed. In a league laden with ultra-talented point guards, he falls in the middle of the pack.
There are numerous point guards who lack a consistent jump shot, such as Rajon Rondo. Yet, they are so proficient in other areas that they remain elite weapons.
Overall, he is fairly adept at maneuvering into the lane for a decent look, and his mark at the rim is stellar.
However, a consistent outside jump shot would serve him greatly, but so far, he hasn't found a steady groove in this area.
The chart below details his percentages from various distances in 2012-13.
|At Rim||3 to <10 Feet||10 to <16 Feet||16 Feet to <3-pt||3-pt|
Playing alongside Harden (who commands much off-the-ball attention) and blossoming wing Chandler Parsons, it would dramatically enhance Houston's attack if Lin could knock down jumpers at a quality rate.
Instead, opponents can willingly leave Lin open and take their chances on his streaky shot.
Until Lin develops a proven jumper, his offensive repertoire remains limited.
He has apparently tweaked his shot in the offseason, so his percentages could be ascending. However, while he may improve things marginally, it's doubtful he makes major progressions. His shooting touch requires a drastic change before this really becomes an asset.
The Presence of Patrick Beverley
Perhaps what could strain Lin the most from reaching expectations is the presence of 25-year-old guard Patrick Beverley.
Beverley became a featured part of Houston's backcourt late in the 2012-13 campaign, especially during the postseason when he averaged 33.8 minutes per outing.
If he continues his ascent, then he'll inevitably cut into Lin's playing time. Truthfully, it's not unreasonable to wonder if Lin could wind up coming off the bench behind Beverley.
We know for certain that Harden, Howard, Parsons and Omer Asik will log significant minutes in every game. Therefore, Lin and Beverly could potentially split time in the rotation as they battle for a more involved role.
As a result, Lin may have limited opportunities to showcase his worth, because he could find himself in a 15-25 MPG niche if Beverley continues to impress.
He Can Still Play a Vital Role
This all reveals that Lin is unlikely to meet the expectations he was handed amid the Linsanity craze. But here's the thing: This doesn't mean Lin should be pegged as a disappointment.
He was thrown expectations too early, before teams could strategize against his tendencies. He had a hard time adjusting once teams figured him out in 2012-13, but he was by no means completely inept.
He still brings much to the table, some of which could vitally strengthen a Houston squad with their eyes on an NBA Finals run.
This is especially important since pressure is gone from Lin as Howard and Harden are their clear superstars. Lin doesn't need to be remarkable, he just needs to be a piece to their championship puzzle. He could ultimately be their X-factor or spark plug, and while this may not seem "linsane," it's still significant.
Lin probably won't attain the expectations cultivated during Linsanity, but he'll likely execute what's expected from him within the Rockets organization. And there's nothing wrong with that.