Jeremy Lin: Grading His Performance for the New York Knicks so Far
Jeremy Lin's play for the New York Knicks over the last five games has been nothing short of incredible, as the undrafted point man from Harvard has taken the NBA by storm and led the Knicks to five consecutive wins. Fans everywhere have jumped on Linsanity's bandwagon as his games have reached a level of intrigue comparable to the mania that Tim Tebow received in the NFL this past season.
So how has this relative unknown gone from riding the pine to center stage under the bright lights of the Big Apple? Here is a look at where Lin has had success, where he has struggled thus far and where he looks to go from here.
Thus far, Lin has been averaging 26.8 PPG during his recent run of success—a staggering rate for almost any player, much less from a point guard.
A huge reason Lin has been so successful has been his ability to run the pick-and-roll offensively.
Lin's size and strength at the point, combined with his ability to finish around taller defenders, have allowed him to penetrate the lane and finish through contact inside.
In addition, Lin has shown great touch and feel on his mid-range jumper, forcing defenses to guard him both when he drives to the hole and when he steps back and shoots.
Overall, Lin has shot 51.5 percent from the field during this winning streak, a number that could even be higher if not for a poor shooting night against the Timberwolves in his last game.
Right now, Lin is taking good shots and, more importantly, he is on fire shooting the ball; seemingly everything he puts up is falling for him during this run.
For as much success as Lin has had on the offensive end, one of the problem areas in his game has been a lack of consistency from behind the arc.
Lin hasn't been afraid to take these shots when he has gotten open looks; he's averaging more than three attempts per game. The problem is that Lin has only converted on 17.6 percent of his shots from deep.
While this inconsistency hasn't hurt his scoring output thus far because of his efficiency in the lane, it will become a liability moving forward as teams begin to back off and look to stop him from driving inside.
Despite all of the insanity that has come with Lin Mania, this is definitely one aspect of Lin's game that needs to be improved moving forward if he hopes to continue being successful.
As for his free-throw shooting, Lin has gotten to the line at a good clip, with more than eight attempts per game while converting 73.8 percent of his shots.
While this sort of percentage is nothing to write home about, it shows that Lin is able to get to the charity stripe for easy points when his shot is not falling. If nothing else, Lin is not a liability like some players (Dwight Howard) when he gets to the line and has made solid contributions in this aspect of his game.
Three-Point Shooting: D
Free-Throw Shooting: C+
Thus far, Lin has put up solid rebounding numbers for a point guard, averaging 4.2 RPG over the last five games.
This can be attributed to the high level of energy with which he plays on the court and the presence of Tyson Chandler down low boxing out opposing rebounders.
In any case, Lin's rebounding has been another good aspect for him to build his game around, and this skill could develop enough so that he could get a triple-double once in a blue moon.
Perhaps more than anything else that Lin has brought to this Knicks squad, his passing ability on offense has been nothing short of a revelation.
Averaging eight assists per game during the Knicks' five wins, Lin has shown superb court vision in setting up his teammates to score in Coach D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense. Compare that to what Toney Douglas (2.3 APG) and Iman Shumpert (3.5 APG) have done at the point, and you can see how important Lin's contributions have been. Lin has done an excellent job of distributing the ball to everyone offensively, rewarding teammates for working hard in getting open looks.
What is perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that Lin has been able to do this without Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in the lineup for the most part. One can only wonder what the impact will be when the Knicks' two star players return to the lineup and how they will affect the flow of the offense.
The bottom line is, with Lin at the helm, the Knicks are playing team basketball the likes of which haven't been seen in New York this season.
For as outstanding as Lin has been running the offense, his turnover numbers still leave something to be desired. Through these last five games, Lin has averaged 4.6 turnovers per game, a prodigious number for a player expected to create scoring chances offensively.
I will say that this statistic should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how Lin does such a good job of keeping the dribble offensively and keeping the ball moving around the court.
I do believe that Lin will improve his turnover rate as he plays more games and gets more comfortable running the show in New York. However, that does not diminish the fact that, right now, turnovers are one of Lin's weaknesses he will need to improve on to have success moving forward.
Despite the fact that Lin lacks the elite physical skills that most great defenders possess, he has played solid defense for the Knicks while running the point.
Currently, his plus/minus rating has been anywhere from solid (+5 against Minnesota) to outstanding (+18 against Washington) since he began to receive significant playing time. In addition, no starting point guard he has been matched up against has recorded a positive plus/minus rating for the game (although Utah's Devin Harris did record a rating of zero).
Lin makes up for a lack of elite athleticism by using his outstanding basketball I.Q. and hustle to anticipate plays and work hard to try and make a play. This combination helps explain how Lin has averaged two steals per game during this run, as he is seemingly always around the ball trying to make plays.
While Lin has been taken advantage of by better, more athletic point guards such as John Wall and Deron Williams, he has done a great job of working hard defensively, and that is certainly a good starting point.
Up until this point in the season, certain adjectives have been attached to the Knicks and how they were playing basketball: stagnant, static, forced, lifeless.
In the absence of Anthony and Stoudemire, Lin has provided a much-needed spark that this team was lacking.
You can see the effect Lin has on his teammates as they react and respond to his intensity and hard work. Watching the camera cutaways to views of Stoudemire and Anthony on the sidelines and the grins on their faces, you can see that they understand how valuable Lin will be moving forward with the natural leadership he exudes on the court.
Furthermore, Mike D'Antoni has been riding Jeremy Lin "like friggin' Secretariat," as Lin has averaged 39 minutes per game and provided consistency on the floor that the rest of the offense can build off of.
Right now, Jeremy Lin's spark is perhaps the most important part of his game that he brings to the table for the Knicks.
Lin has played exceptionally well for the Knicks as of late.
However, considering his no-name status before this recent string of games, this is as close to an inconceivable, head-scratching, full-on miracle as sports has to offer.
Lin's arrival has happened at just the right time for a team that was one of the biggest disappointments in the league this year, turning them into one with legitimate playoff and even title aspirations if he can keep this play up. Even if Lin returns to Earth and plays just average or slightly above average for the rest of the season, the Knicks will definitely be a team to be reckoned with and will have one of the better starting fives in the NBA.
All in all, Lin has been playing out of his mind as of late, and I look forward to seeing how much longer he can keep this up.
So Where Does Lin Go from Here?
I highly doubt that anybody thought going into this year that the x-factor for New York would be Jeremy Lin, of all people. His success is one of the biggest surprises of the season and has seemingly revived a Knicks team on the brink of collapse.
However, there are still a number of questions surrounding Lin going forward:
How will Lin mesh with Anthony and Stoudemire when they return to action?
Can D'Antoni continue playing Lin such a high minute count and hold up for the rest of the season, much less a possible playoff run?
How will Lin fare once teams figure out how to defend him or against teams with elite point guards?
How will Lin react to the historically brutal New York media if he begins to struggle?
And, most importantly, how long can this underdog keep this Cinderella story going?
We won't know know until the answers come to pass; all we can do is keep watching as the Jeremy Lin Show keeps on rolling. Stay tuned.