The Houston Rockets point guard and former Knicks sensation is on the trading block this summer after the emergence of Patrick Beverley in Houston. Lin is gettable, and the Knicks should be looking to make moves themselves to start cleaning up their salary-cap hellscape.
The Knicks have an astounding $67 million committed to contracts for next season, and that figure rises to $90 million in the unlikely event that Carmelo Anthony opts back into his deal instead of testing free agency. And even if Anthony signs a new contract with his team (still a probable outcome) the Knicks will be similarly committed.
Forget the nostalgic warm fuzzies that would come with a Linsanity redux. The practical truth here is that Lin is a more competent point guard than the flabbergasting Raymond Felton and is also coming up on the last year of his contract. Felton is not only slower, older, a lesser defender and shooter, but he's also on contract for another year.
Regardless of what New York would do with Lin after the 2014-15 season, he can act as a bridge into a more healthy economic reality in which the Knicks have cap space, draft picks and more than two tradeable contracts. This is a brightly shining fantasy for New York fans at this point, and Lin can help them get there.
Plus, even though the Knicks look to be far from true contention next season, they will need a point guard to somewhat right their ship and create a hospitable environment for youngsters like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert to blossom in. Jackson has already signaled that Felton is on his way out, and Jason Kidd isn’t walking through that door.
Say what you want about Lin’s flaws. They’re clear. He’s prone to frustrating streaks with his shooting, and he’s a poor defender. He’s also very prone to turnovers. From Neil Paine at Sports Illustrated:
It's also fair to point out Lin's propensity for turnovers. This season, 21.8 percent of Lin's individual possessions have ended with him committing a turnover, 16th most among guards with at least 159 minutes. Lin's turnovers tend to come in bunches, too. He already has two eight-turnover games, to go with three more games in which he turned the ball over six times.
Paine's words are from 2012, but they still largely apply. Lin is not a terribly reliable captain and offense-runner, but his production as a sixth man in Houston last year was actually a notch above his captivating work with the Knicks. He shot the same mark (45 percent) over more games and averaged less turnovers—2.5 per game in Houston to 3.6 in New York.
Fans may envision acquiring an elite point guard like Kyle Lowry or Rajon Rondo this offseason, but those are pipe dreams. Lin is clearly a better option than Felton, a mess on the court and off it as well.
Lin is not just a better player, but a more stable personality. Whatever his shortcomings on the court may be, his positive attitude and responsible behavior would be helpful toward some much-needed culture change, if only for one season.
Linsanity 2.0 would be a much more sober thing. But if fans can get over all the noxious narrative and media frenzy that would be sure to pile onto the occasion of Lin’s return, they should be able to see the benefits of the unlikely reunion.
The elephant in the room to any Knicks offseason discussion is, of course, whether Anthony will be back.
Jackson has appeared less than eager to bend backwards for Anthony and more focused on starting over. According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, Jackson said he’s “not losing sleep” over Anthony’s free agency. Jackson also offered Anthony the possibility of opting back in for his final year instead of testing the market, which goes against his long-standing summer wishes.
So if the Knicks are going to lose Anthony, the wisest course may be to work a sign-and-trade as opposed to letting him walk for nothing. Conveniently enough, the Rockets—a top Anthony suitor—need to shed Omer Asik and Lin’s salaries (as well as other assets) to make room for another superstar-sized contract.
The Knicks should consider taking Lin back in such a deal as a plus. Especially if he’s the gravy to what they need more than anything: draft picks.
Even if Lin doesn't come in an Anthony trade—and 'Melo stays—he still stands as a feasible, healthy and temporary alternative to Felton. Jeremy Lin, once upon a time, helped restore excitement to New York basketball. Now he can help restore (no pun intended) sanity.
Salary cap information courtesy of Sham Sports.