Both are starting-quality guards, but starting Beverley and making Lin a super-sub could be the best thing not just for Houston, but Lin’s career too.
Lin is the starter for now—Beverly will be out for at least a week with a torn muscle in his midsection—but this is a different issue in the long run.
Many have long expected or assumed that Lin would be a long-term starter in the league after he was the center of basketball’s attention span for multiple weeks as the leader of a rejuvenated New York Knicks team during the 2011-12 season.
However, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Lin has struggled to find consistent play and a firm basketball identity in Houston.
Lin as an offensive microwave off the bench just might answer all of the weightiest questions about the famed player’s role and legacy in the NBA. In the role of sixth man, Lin’s flair for the hot streak and sudden drama is perfectly encapsulated.
Bringing Lin off the bench also gives his team a steadier hand to set the tone at the start of games.
Whether it be Beverley or another more level point man, there are a bounty of 1-guards in the NBA who take better care of the ball than Lin—who has averaged 2.6 turnovers per game over his career versus Beverley’s 1.1—and provide better defense.
The role of super-sub plays so well into Lin’s strengths that he’d immediately become a top candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. The few players in the league who are clearly more capable of taking defenses by storm than Lin are almost all starters.
Given his comfort in running the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard, Lin might be more capable of directly replacing his team's top scorer and ball-handler (James Harden) than any other bench player in the NBA.
Plus, Lin recently told Hoops & Hooks that he’s not concerned with starting or not. His minutes as well as what units he plays on are what matter most to him.
This is the right attitude to take not only because it will help Lin cope with what looks to be a will-he-or-won’t-he circumstance all season at the starting point position, but also because he’s just correct.
At its root, the distinction between starting and not starting in the NBA is not a value judgment of who you are as a player.
Just ask Manu Ginobli. Or even Lin’s coach, Kevin McHale, who won multiple championships as a sixth man and was once named one of the 50 greatest players of all time.
Lin’s skill set, starter or not, is highly valued in a league that has always needed players with his natural prowess for getting to the hole and breaking down defenses. It just so happens that fellow starter Harden is even better in that role, and also turnover-prone—he’s averaging four per game so far this season.
It would behoove the Rockets to begin games with at least one of these guys on the bench and Beverley's calmer handles at the wheel. Of course, it won’t be The Beard who sits, as he's one of the very best players in the world.
As the leader of the second unit and a key member of hybrid units late in close games, Lin’s opportunities to impact games would not be lessened. Like he said, it’s all about the minutes.
When it matters most, Lin is as likely as any other Rocket not named James Harden or Dwight Howard to have the ball in his hands—starter or not. Regardless of whether or not he begins games, Lin should definitely be finishing them.