Despite the fact that Jeremy Lin has been playing well as of late, he is better suited for the bench when the Houston Rockets are at full strength. Based on the latest news, that could be coming soon.
Patrick Beverley, who has been out since Dec. 21 with a broken hand, is reportedly close to returning ahead of schedule, according to Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. The point guard recently described his rehab:
Everything is good. Range of motion is good. Dribbling the ball, shooting. It’s all about the bone healing.
I’m on the bench jumping around like a maniac. It’s just hard. It’s hard just watching. I am so bored at home doing nothing. Taking basketball away from me is awful. I can’t wait to get back out there.
As a result, you can expect the second-year point guard to be back on the court within the next week or two at the most. When that happens, he should once again be placed in the starting lineup over Lin.
Lin coming off the bench was the plan the entire year, but injuries have limited the amount of time that both players were active at the same time. After Beverley broke his hand, Lin returned to action the very next game after missing time with a back injury.
In eight games since, the former Harvard star is averaging 33.1 minutes, 13.5 points and 4.0 assists per game. Only once did he fail to score in double figures, and that resulted in a 31-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Therefore, it is impossible to argue that he is not playing well as a starter. However, he is actually more efficient of an offensive player when he comes off the bench.
As a starter, Lin is almost being wasted as he is forced to take on a secondary role behind James Harden. When the All-Star guard has the ball in his hands—which is quite often—Lin is reduced to little more than a spot shooter.
However, Kevin McHale knows that his point guard can have more value off the bench. Earlier in the year, he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
I like Jeremy coming in and being aggressive. I told him, nothing is going to change with him. I think he has played very well this year. 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.
When he comes in as part of the second unit, he becomes more of a leader. He can score on his own or distribute to teammates to help the offense stay strong.
The numbers also show that Lin is a more efficient player when coming off the bench this season.
|Role||Minutes/Game||Points/48||Assists/48||FG %||3-Pt %||TS %|
As you can see, he does more with less and he even tends to take better shots. The only significant drop is his three-point shooting percentage, but he is also taking fewer attempts per game as he is more inclined to drive to the basket.
This has led to a higher true shooting percentage, which helps the offense and increases his value.
Meanwhile, Beverley does a much better job of complementing Harden on the court. As a defensive standout, he can guard the best opposing backcourt player while not needing to do much on the offensive end.
This is not to say that Lin and Harden will never play together. Instead, the time on court will be staggered so the pairing is limited.
With the Rockets contending for the top spot in the Western Conference, there is no time for egos. Lin has been accepting of his role with the team and appears willing to do whatever is necessary to help Houston win.
Therefore, his recent success as a starter—including the team's five wins in its last seven games—should not change the original plan of having Beverley in the starting lineup. Instead, this is something that could make the entire team stronger as a playoff contender going forward.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.