Jeremy Lin a Worthwhile Risk for Contenders at NBA Trade Deadline

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IFebruary 10, 2015

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeremy Lin dribbles during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

There is reportedly little interest in Jeremy Lin as the NBA trade deadline approaches. While there are clear and obvious reasons why that's the case, teams in need of point guard depth may want to reevaluate the polarizing fifth-year player. 

Sporting News' Sean Deveney recently reported the Lakers, in full-on rebuilding mode, are attempting to trade Lin but the market for the 26-year-old point guard "has been weak." 

The biggest reason for a lack of potential suitors, presumably, is money. ESPN's Nick Borges explains: 

Lin is on the salary cap this season for $8.37 million, but he's actually making close to $15 million as part of the offer sheet he signed with the Houston Rockets in July of 2012. Lin is currently still owed $6.05 million this season. For that reason and his lack of production, the Lakers can only deal Lin if they are willing to take back an equally bad contract. 

Lin carries a cap hit of just over $8 million, which is more than guards such as Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Monta Ellis, per Spotrac. That's laughable, but it's also a reason why he's underrated purely as a player. 

Because of his unbelievable run with the New York Knicks that drove a nation Linsane with puns, and because of that over-inflated, back-loaded, poison pill of a contract, he carries the unreachable expectations of a star. 

But he's not a star. He's a solid offensive point guard with legitimate defensive limitations. And that's OK, because there's plenty of use for that in the NBA. 

Mark Duncan/Associated Press
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On the year, Lin is averaging 10.5 points and 4.6 assists on 43.0 percent shooting. Certainly not spectacular numbers, but his minutes (25.6 per game) and role (23 starts, now playing behind second-round pick Jordan Clarkson) have fluctuated under Lakers head coach Byron Scott, who has hardly impressed during his first year as head coach in L.A. 

“I’ve been asked to wear a lot of different hats and so that can be difficult,” Lin told Sheridan Hoops' Michael Scotto. “I think there are a lot of obstacles that I have to try to continue to face and overcome everyday as I try to play.”

Lin's strengths are clear. He's an aggressive ball-handler who thrives in the pick-and-roll game, can finish at the hoop and is a solid outside shooter. 

According to NBA.com, he is shooting 57.3 percent at the rim and 38.5 percent on threes from above the break, which are both rock-solid. His field-goal percentage is low because of his atrocious mid-range shooting, but the right coach could get him to cut down on those shots and thus improve his efficiency. 

Expectations of Lin need to be adjusted. He's not someone who's going to transcend defenses and look great on a bad Lakers team. But on a good team, he can be a reliable backup point guard who comes off the bench, runs the offense and provides a scoring punch to the second unit. That's a valuable asset, and plenty of contending squads could stand to improve by adding him. 

Ultimately, any potential suitors will have to weigh the cost versus value, determining if Lin's offense is worth the bloated cap hit.

Many will quickly say it's not, and that's understandable. But considering he's only a half-season rental, would cost very little in a trade and brings in money as a popular international player, acquiring him—and his ugly contractwould be a completely justifiable move for a team trying to win right now.