Two starts aren't enough to make a sound judgement, but many factors suggest Jeremy Lin is a long-term great fit for the Houston Rockets' sixth-man role. In two games as a reserve, Lin is averaging 16 points. He isn't just chucking up shots, he's scoring efficiently.
As a sixth man, Lin is shooting just under 67 percent from the field; that includes knocking down 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc.
With such a short term as a reserve to evaluate, it is hard to use Lin's statistical output as absolute proof he'll continue to shine in the role, but theoretically, the move makes the most sense for Houston. Here's what Rockets' head coach Kevin McHale said about his decision to make Lin a full-time sixth man, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
I like Jeremy coming in and being aggressive. I think he’s played better this year than he has at any point last year. I think he’s livelier. I think he’s attacking more. I think he has more bounce. It gives us a potent scorer coming off the bench, which is great. His turnovers are down. He’s doing a lot of really great things.
We’re going to take a look at this and use him for a big spark off the bench. He’s going to usually play the same amount of minutes, just at different times.
Sounds like an ideal strategy, and here's why.
With three players in the starting lineup who all need a high volume of touches to be effective, separating this trio is a smart move. Obviously, Harden or Howard aren't going to be moved to the bench. They are the two highest-paid players on the roster.
Lin is the best option to reassign because the Rockets have a very capable young veteran in Patrick Beverley whose game better fits with Harden and Howard. Beverley is a complementary player who doesn't need the ball to find his niche in the game.
Beverley is a better on-ball defender than Lin, so he gives the Rockets a better chance to establish themselves defensively early on. This type of thing happens to Lin a little too often:
Beverley also isn't established enough to pout about sporadic minutes.
In Lin's two stints off the bench this season, he has entered the game at the 6:24 and 6:01 marks of the first quarter. Though he obviously saw floor time with Harden and Howard, by the time he checked into the game, both of the Rockets' stars already had the opportunity to get warm and to find their rhythm.
Lin is free to hit the floor and attack aggressively. This is his game and the ideal approach for a sixth man.
Once Howard and Harden check out, Lin can be left in to lead the second unit. In these two games, Lin is averaging 8.5 first-half points. That is more than enough scoring production from a sixth man in one half.
More Freedom to Claim the Second Unit
The best sixth men are the unquestioned leaders of their team's second unit, and they find a way to mesh when on the floor with the starters. Lin still has a ways to go with the latter part of the last statement, but he's more than ready to make the Rockets bench more formidable.
Lin and Francisco Garcia are a potentially deadly combination as reserves. Garcia is already averaging 10 points per game and knocking down 40 percent of his threes. As a player who excels playing off the ball, he is a great complement to Lin.
Lin's dribble penetration can create opportunities to feed Garcia on the perimeter. Together, the duo could give the Rockets bench quite a boost.
Things are still taking shape as the season is just six games old. However, Houston's roster is beginning to find itself, and McHale is pushing the right buttons thus far. If things continue to come together, the Rockets could evolve into the best team in the Western Conference and maybe the entire NBA.
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