What to Make of Jeremy Lin?

Rather than waste my time with a post game when the only thing to talk about was ^ that guy, I decided to write a perspective on what exactly happened last night. Was the performance of career D-Leaguer Jeremy Lin a fluke or have the Knicks found a serviceable point guard? Obviously nobody knows the answer because the answer to that question has yet to be written. What is known however is this, Jeremy Lin is a point guard. The New York Knicks have no other capable point guards on their roster. Douglas is a shooting guard. Shumpert is more of a combo guard, probably in all likelihood a shooting guard. The only other actual point guard on the active roster is AARP eligible Mike Bibby whose age no longer allows him to play at an NBA level.

As all the NBA world saw last night, Jeremy Lin does have some talent. Obviously he’s not going to score 25 points a game but he does have talent. More impressive than his offensive show was the defense that Lin displayed. He held in check one of the most dynamic scorers in the game in New Jersey point guard Deron Williams. I thought Lin’s defensive presence (yes, he did have a defensive presence) changed the game. When Lin was inserted into the game late in the 1st quarter, New Jersey’s offense went to the iso-Williams in an attempt to exploit Lin’s defense. Rather than dominate, Williams struggled mightily. Williams scored 3 baskets in the 1st quarter before Lin came into the game. In the final 3 quarters, Williams connected on only 4 more baskets and finished the game 7/19 shooting. Not too bad for a D-Leaguer from Harvard who had been cut by 2 teams already this season.

Impressively, Lin moved the ball well and recorded 7 assists last night. Between Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert, Knick point guards have recorded 7+ assists 4 times this season and have yet to get into double digits. His 25 points, on 10/19 shooting, is a mark only Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have trumped this season for the Knicks. Lin truly had an unbelievable game. Skeptics will say that he cannot keep it up. They are correct. There is no way he will score 25 points every game. However, I believe Lin can be a good point guard on this team and help them turn their season around. Overreaction? I don’t think so. I say look at statistics. No I do not point to his D-League statistics of 18 points/game, 5.8 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game last season. I look at the statistics of Chris Duhon. When Chris Duhon ran Mike D’Antoni’s system, he posted pretty decent statistics and the Knicks had a pretty good offense. In his best season as a Knick, 2008, Duhon averaged 11.1 points/game and 7.2 assists/game. In the 2 seasons that Duhon was the starter, the Knicks offense finished 5th and 10th in points per game. Lin is a very smart (duh) point guard and I believe he has more talent than Duhon. Obviously the Knicks have more offensive talent now than they did in the Duhon era. Given the system and the players around him, I think Lin could become a serviceable point guard. He will never put up Steve Nash numbers and he may not even put up Duhon numbers but he brings a lot to the table.

In a small sample size for Golden State last season, 29 games and 9.8 minutes/game, Lin posted a player efficiency rating of 14.79. I understand it is a small sample size but if he were to maintain that efficiency throughout the remainder of this season, he would trump the current PER of Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Kemba Walker, Jason Kidd and Devin Harris. Now I am not arguing that Lin is better than any of those guys, not even Lin would argue that. What I believe is that Lin can play the point guard position under Mike D’Antoni at an NBA-caliber level. He won’t ever be an all-star and may never be a full time starter in this league but he can play. Before we as fans anoint Lin as the starter or even the full time backup, I would like to see more consistent play over the next few games. That is not a shot against Lin, it is simply rational thinking. People tend to overreact after a great performance, especially when the guy scores 25 against and shuts down one of the league’s top point guards. All I am saying is lets see if he can continue to play well. If he can, then he will more than deserve to be part of Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. He brings everything in a backup point guard, minus shooting ability, that the Knicks desperately need. He can defend, he can break down the defense, he is pass first and he is smart. Unlike the recently demoted Toney Douglas, Lin does not appear to panic when a play breaks down. I did not think Lin forced many shots last night, the ones he took on the perimeter were wide open. What impressed me most about Lin was his ability to change his game on the fly. When New Jersey switched their defense to keep him out of the paint, he adjusted to jump shots. When those shots did not fall, Lin found a way to get back in the paint. Every time New Jersey switched defenses on Lin he counterpunched and that is what good NBA point guards do. His performance speaks volumes about his high basketball IQ and that is a great sign for the Knicks.

Whether that game was an aberration or whether Lin is for real, this can be said: last night was one hell of a show. That was easily the most memorable performance of the young season for the Knicks and I would love to see Lin continue to succeed. An un-drafted journeyman afterthought became a fan favorite in one night, it is a great story. Whether he pans out or not, Knick fans will always remember the night Jeremy Lin scorched Deron Williams en route to a Knick victory. I believe the kid can play and he showed what he can do last night. It will be interesting to see how Lin progresses moving forward. I have a feeling that Lin can be a solid contributor on this Knick team but only time will tell.

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