Linsanity: Temporary Phase or Lasting Success
On December 9, 2011 the Golden State Warriors chose not to renew Jeremy Lin’s two year contract. Just 16 days before the beginning of this season, Lin was teamless. Fast forward three months, and Lin is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks and the most talked about player in the NBA. The “linsanity” fad has swept across the NBA like a wildfire, but is Lin’s value as a player really worth all the hype? The answer, as much as I may hate to say it, is no.
Yes, Lin has proved he is a capable scorer this year. Yes, Lin has improved his shooting stroke. Yes, Lin has improved his vertical leap, squat, and upper body strength dramatically. And yes, Lin has made some big plays in some big moments, in some big games. Undeniably, Jeremy Lin has improved significantly.
However, will Lin’s incredible degree of success continue at the pace it’s at now? Will Lin be a future Allstar? The answer, unfortunately for the young player, is no. Here are my concerns. One, Lin averages 6.5 turnovers a game. As a point guard myself, it would be awful to have one game with 6 turnovers, let alone average it. In fact, in Lin’s first 8 games, he had 52 turnovers. That’s more than any player in the entire history of the NBA. Any point guard who’s that unreliable with the ball is going to cause his teams and himself problems eventually, even if they haven’t caught up with him yet.
Second, Lin’s ability to drive to the basket and either score or dump the ball off to a teammate comes from his often out-of-control style of play. While this style is entertaining and the reason for all the hype he’s been getting, it is also the same style that contributes to his incredibly high turnover numbers. Consequently, if he were to fix his turnovers, it would also mean that he would be less of a factor as a scorer and facilitator for the rest of his team. And as I said before, if he chooses not to fix his turnovers, they will come back to hurt him in the long run.
Third, when teams treat him as primary threat when they play the Knicks, instead of the the second or third threat behind Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, he has not performed as well. The thing about an allstar, is that he can put up big numbers, or at least play a good solid game, against the opposing teams’ best defenders. When the Knicks played the Miami Heat, and Dwayne Wade focused on guarding Lin, Lin had eight points and three assists, while shooting one of eleven from the field. The young rising star couldn’t withstand the pressure the Heat put on him, coughing the ball up a grand total of eight times. What’s sad about that, is that that isn’t even the most turnovers he’s had in a game.
As if to prove my point, Lin has cooled off in the last five games. After he led the Knicks to eight victories in nine games, they have since lost seven out of nine games. Now that Lin has reduced his turnover average to 4.4 a game (still too high for my taste), his scoring average dropped from 25 to 15.8 a game and his shooting percentage went from near 50% to 38%. When Lin plays with his previous aggressiveness, he has games like he had against Milwaukee on March 9, where he scored 20 points, but also committed an atrocious 13 turnovers. And so, despite his rapid climb to fame, or perhaps because of it, it seems linsanity is cooling off.
Now, I’m not saying that Lin is going to return to his previous status as a bench player getting scrub minutes at the end of games. He’s proven himself to be a solid point guard, and will probably continue to put up respectable numbers. That being said, being a good point guard is a lot different from being a NBA superstar. Because the fact of the matter is, he isn’t superstar and probably never will be.
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