Linsanity Anniversary – Past, Present, and Future

A little over a year ago, this website was started as a dedication to Jeremy Lin and the Linsanity that he brought to the NBA. While the media hype and shock value of Jeremy’s game is a thing of the past (exacerbated by being in New York), the essence of Linsanity perseveres every time Jeremy steps onto the court and plays his style of basketball. Some sports analysts would argue that Linsanity is long gone simply by comparing statistics of then and now, but it was never about the numbers. Many all-stars past and present have put up better statistical streaks than Jeremy did during his breakout period, but what made Linsanity unique was it was a first glimpse at leadership and inspiration in what was supposed to be a hopeless situation.

On the day Jeremy had his breakout game against the Nets on February 4th, 2012, the Knicks had an 8-15 record, losing 11 of their last 13 games. All three of the point guards ahead of Jeremy on the Knicks roster were considered hopeless and even Coach D’antoni would show his frustration by subbing in an inexperienced player in the 1st quarter and letting him take over the team. While game winning shots and fancy passes would grace the highlight reel, it was his intangible ability to lead a makeshift team (while the stars were injured) to wins that would ultimately define Linsanity. Not only did he forge his own future, but redefined it for lesser known names like Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, and Steve Novak. While Jeremy clearly over-performed as an individual, his presence made the entire team over-perform during that time.

What about now with the Rockets? Before the season began, the Rockets were considered one of the worst teams in the NBA, but somewhat forgiven since they were young and in a rebuilding phase. Even with the acquisition of James Harden, expectations were low since most of the Thunder’s success has been attributed to Durant and Westbrook, and a single young star rarely makes a successful team. Over half the season is over and the Rockets are well into a playoff push despite being the youngest team in the league, cheapest team in the league, and the head coach missing significant amounts of time due to personal issues. Harden has over-performed, Asik has over-performed, Parsons has over-performed, Patterson has over-performed, and even Toney Douglas has over-performed compared to the previous year and overall expectations. As for Jeremy, if you net his steals against his turnovers, he is currently 12th in the league in terms of Assists to Turnovers, which has largely been critiqued as his biggest weakness as a point guard. Jeremy may not be the #1 offensive option anymore, which leads to decreased numbers, but as the starting point guard, he’s currently leading the fastest and one of the most efficient offenses in the league, which has over-performed all expectations. Isn’t this the very essence of Linsanity?

Bleacher Report – Q4 Mystery Minutes

Interesting article concerning the minutes Jeremy is getting in the final quarter as a critical piece to his development as a [franchise] player. I’ll highlight certain parts in red to emphasis.

Bleacher Report: Jeremy Lin’s Inconsistent 4th-Quarter Minutes Continue to Stunt Development

When the Houston Rockets acquired Jeremy Lin this offseason, many expected the rising star to become the organization’s franchise player. James Harden’s arrival and Kevin McHale’s coaching tactics have since created a different path for Lin.

Most notably, Lin’s inconsistent fourth-quarter minutes continue to stunt his development.

During the Houston Rockets’ 117-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Lin saw one minute and 51 seconds of playing time during the fourth quarter. With that being said, Lin was also in foul trouble.

Unfortunately, Lin seeing the bench late has been consistent regardless of foul trouble.

This issue started in November, as Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson claimed Lin was benched during fourth quarters because of his defense (via NBA.com). Since then, we’ve seen more of the same.

The question is, what does Sampson believe improves when Lin is on the bench?

According to NBA.com, the Rockets are allowing 102.4 points per 48 minutes when Lin is on the floor. That numbers drops to 102.0 points per 48 when Lin is riding the pine.

Not so fast.

NBA.com proceeds to report that the Rockets are allowing 103.9 points per 100 possessions with Lin on the floor. That number rises to 104.3 when Lin is off the floor.

In other words, the Rockets are actually a better defensive team when Lin is on the floor.

With this being known, it remains unclear as to why the Rockets would leave Lin on the bench. With all due respect to Patrick Beverley and Toney Douglas, it appears as if Lin has the higher ceiling.

Until his minutes hit a more consistent level, Lin will continue to come up short of reaching his potential.

Develop or Give Up on Harden and Lin

Thus far in 2012-13, Jeremy Lin is averaging 18.3 points and 8.9 assists per 48 minutes in which James Harden is on the bench. When Harden is on the floor, those numbers drop to 12.9 points and 6.3 assists.

Perhaps most concerning of all, Lin is shooting 43 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three with Harden on the floor. Those numbers jump to 47 percent from the field and 48 percent from distance when Harden is on the bench.

The Rockets must either abandon their current pairing of Harden and Lin altogether or commit to developing the tandem.

From a financial perspective, the Rockets have committed to Harden and Lin as a duo. Lin averages roughly $8.4 million over the next three years, while Harden averages $16.0 million.

Unfortunately, the minutes and strategy fail to match the money.

The Rockets defer to Harden in virtually every scenario. This forces Lin, the point guard, to play off the ball and step in to play based off of his weaknesses.

Lin is one of the league’s better dribble penetrators, yet he’s being forced to become a spot-up shooter.

Until the Rockets’ coaching staff figures out a way to use Lin on-ball and Harden off of it, the Harvard graduate will continue to struggle. Should a balance be created, however, both men can thrive.

The ball is in coach Kevin McHale’s court, in that sense.

Proven Fourth-Quarter Performer

During the 2011-12 NBA regular season, Jeremy Lin shot 49.5 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter. He also converted 56.3 percent of his fourth-quarter three-point attempts.

In other words, Lin was straight-up clutch.

In 2012-13, Lin is fifth on the Houston Rockets in terms of fourth-quarter field-goal attempts. Surprisingly, second on the team is Toney Douglas.

The backup point guard who has taken Lin’s place come the fourth quarter.

By comparison, Lin is shooting 41.7 percent on fourth-quarter field goals. Douglas rests at 39.4 percent in that capacity.

So why not make the switch?

Lin may not be performing at an All-Star caliber, but he’s proven to be a player that shines in the spotlight. There is no brighter light than those that shine in the fourth quarter.

So why not let Lin do what he does best and take over in the fourth quarter?

Until the Rockets allow Lin to thrive in his most comfortable setting, he will continue to struggle in Houston. The Harvard graduate thrives in clutch situations and is clearly at his best when the ball is in his hands.

The question is, when will coach Kevin McHale allow him to play in the manner most comfortable to him?

Red94 – Changing the Guards Part 1

An analysis of the Rockets guard rotation (Harden, Douglas, and Lin) and how unconventional (and so far, working) it is in the NBA. Bolded some of the more interesting parts.

Source: http://www.red94.net/houstons-quiet-positional-revolution-part-1-toney-douglas/10980/

NBA basketball is changing. Rules changes and new methods for measuring and developing talent usher in new styles of play, new styles of player, and new styles of winning. Teams like the Miami heat are reaping dividends by throwing out the idea of standard NBA positions, and so-called “small ball” is pushing the league to ever higher scoring heights. Never one to sit idly by, the Houston Rockets have joined in as a pioneer of new styles of basketball. While the Miami Heat may have brought the positional revolution to the average NBA fan with LeBron in the post and Chris Bosh starting as the tallest Heat player on the court, the Rockets are having their own quiet revolution.

The five players on the floor, as understood by the traditional positionality, are as follows:

- A Point Guard to handle the ball, distribute to scorers, and hopefully space the floor and score as well.
- A Shooting Guard to score, to space the floor and to handle the ball as well.
- A Small Forward to score, usually space the floor, hopefully rebound and maybe handle the ball.
- A Power Forward to rebound, usually score, sometimes distribute and often post up.
- A Center to rebound, often score, usually post up and hopefully protect the rim.

In a nutshell, teams and players have been rejecting the idea that those role combinations need to be connected in that way. Point Guards can score, Small Forwards can distribute, and centers can dribble. Teams now look to cover the various offensive needs without needing a standard set of players. This opens the door for creative, smaller lineups. As post play seems to become more and more rare, scores, paces and pulses rise.

In the 16 games since the Rockets lost in overtime to the San Antonio Spurs on December 10th, the Rockets have made adjustments that have allowed them to win a shocking 12 of them. One of these adjustments was not just to tighten their guard lineup, but to make a critical change that defies the ideas of the traditional positions. Daequan Cook was eliminated as the backup shooting guard (and eventually eliminated entirely from the roster), replaced with Toney Douglas. Toney’s place as backup point guard? That was handed to starting shooting guard James Harden.

That isn’t really quite accurate. Whatever type of players Harden, Lin and Douglas were, they’re still those players. The change is what roles they’re being asked to perform, and how often. A team obviously needs at least one ball handler and distributor on the floor at all times, preferably in one player. The quintessential point guard dribbles around the floor, creating chaos (in an orderly way, usually) and then passing the ball to the open man for easy shots. When a player can dribble and shoot but not pass or create for others very well, this defies the idea of what a point guard is. A team that doesn’t pass typically can’t get the kind of looks they want.

Some teams, like the Thunder, embrace an assist-low gameplan, allowing their primary ball handler to focus more on scoring than average, though it must be noted that Westbrook has had impressive assist numbers this year. What they don’t have, and what they lost with James Harden, was a second strong creator and distributor. And that’s what Houston gained. In November, before the rotations had been solidified, the Rockets tried a number of rotations, most of them revolving around Lin and Douglas staggering minutes as the point guard. Douglas looked lost at times, coughing up the ball 4.9 times per 48 minutes and only notching 5.6 assists per 48. Given that he was only playing 16 minutes a game, and that players typically find it easier to post better per 48 stats in shorter minutes, that’s a poor showing. The Rockets’ bench unit looked shaky and was viewed as a point of weakness.

In the last 10 games, Douglas has looked much better, dropping his turnovers to 3.2 per 48 in 19.7 minutes per game. He also dropped his assists to 4.9 per 48. This suggests something that can be corroborated with stats and the eye test: he’s scoring more, passing less. In November, Douglas averaged 15.9 points per 48 minutes on 30.4% shooting, which is obviously not satisfactory. In the past ten games Douglas has shot much better: 22.4 points per 48 on 45.9%. He’s taking better shots because he’s not the backup creator/distributor. He can dribble well, and he can find looks for himself. And now that’s his primary responsibility on offense.

The new guard rotation for Houston is tighter, with only three players: Harden, Lin and Douglas. Under the terms of the new positionality, it may be more accurate to describe them as the ball handlers lineup, as that’s the primary ability that sets them apart from the rest of the team. Parsons isn’t bad, and Delfino plays as though he can slice apart on offense, but they don’t have the same tight handles as the aforementioned three Rockets. (New Rockets Patrick Beverly and James Anderson have yet to have a place in the rotation, and as such aren’t yet being considered, though I’m sure they will acquit themselves well at putting the ball on the floor.)

Due to a tighter rotation, all three players are playing more minutes, though Harden’s only picked up about half a minute more. Most importantly, the Rockets are keeping at least one of Harden or Lin on the floor at (almost all) times. Lin, when he’s on the floor, is the primary distributor and creator now, and he’s on the floor more. This is has upped his turnovers, but his assists have held steady. Harden, for his part, has had a high usage rate throughout the year, and hasn’t seen as much of a change in his per 48 numbers. He’s gained half an assist and lost half a turnover.

This is all because while Lin can easily be seen as a traditional point guard, Harden and Douglas are new breeds. Or, at least, they’re more valuable when viewed through new lenses. Harden is an amazing player, skilled at nearly every facet of the offensive game, including creating looks for his teammates. Harden has point guard abilities, despite being advertised as a shooting guard. And Douglas has shooting guard abilities, despite being billed as a point.

Douglas isn’t the only one to shoot better in the last ten games than in November. As rotations and player roles settle, the other two creators on the Rockets have found more success. Harden picked up his shooting from 41.2% to 47.8%, though his scoring per 48 has actually fallen slightly as he passes a little more (from 38.4 to 36.6). Lin has had the more drastic change, turning a dismal 14.3 points per 48 on 37.3% to a much better 18.9 points per 48 on 47.3%.

What data the Houston front office compiles is a closely guarded trade secret, but their decision making has led the Rockets to come together and play to their strengths in a blistering series of wins. And those wins are in large part attributable to the backcourt finding itself, which leads to looks for the entire team. The Houston backcourt is better now, and it’s because they’re doing what they’re good at, not what they’re supposed to be good at.

Rockets Player Comparisons

An excellent post made by ESPN board poster “etony3314″ which compares the numbers and styles of the Rockets starters against various veteran players in the NBA. I bolded parts I think are more important for emphasis/organization and added wikipedia links to the various comparison players since the floor ones are less known, but otherwise left the post intact.

Jeremy Lin:
Ceiling – Rajon Rondo
Floor – Jamaal Tinsley

Player A: 32.7 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .399 FG%, .309 3P%, .821 FT% 
Player B: 29.9 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .492 FG%, .263 3P%, .611 FT% 

Player A is Jeremy Lin this season. Player B is Rajon Rondo in 2007-08, his second season (he started 25 games his rookie year, while Lin started 25 games last season, playing very sparingly in his rookie year). The similarities in their games are there – the very good floor vision, the blazing speed and ability to drive, the reluctance to shoot jumpers (and the inconsistency when shooting them), the often lackadaisical effort in moving without the ball, the very good rebounding ability for a PG, the lightning quick hands mixed with the inconsistent one-on-one defense. I’m not saying Jeremy Lin is going to be as good as Rondo – but, with work, that’s his ceiling. For now, he’s a facilitator who can mix in some scoring when necessary and is inconsistent, although sometimes marvelous, on the defensive end. Unfortunately for him, moving without the ball is not his strength, and the Rockets have James Harden, who runs the offense more than Lin, relegating Lin to more of a 2-guard role – which does not at all play to his strengths. The Rockets would be wise to keep either Lin or Harden on the floor, while the other one is on the bench, and to only play them together when necessary, because they do not mesh well at all. 

Player C: 27.4 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .394 FG%, .717 FT% 

Those are Jamaal Tinsley’s career averages. Lin will be no worse than that – but, once again, their styles are somewhat similar.

James Harden: 
Ceiling – Manu Ginobili
Floor – Steve Francis

The talent levels between Ginobili and Francis really aren’t that disparate. Their attitudes and fortitude are what separated them. James disappeared during the Finals last year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t step it up if and when he gets back there. I’m not going to spend much time on Harden, since you’ve all seen him play plenty.

Chandler Parsons: 
Ceiling – Danny Granger
Floor – Trevor Ariza

Chandler is basically a stretch four who’s quick enough to play the three. He has a very good outside shot, although he’s struggled of late from beyond the arc (his last game notwithstanding). He needs to learn to pick his spots better, however. After he’s made a couple of threes, he starts taking ill-advised shots – and if he’s cold, he’ll pass up open looks. His inside game is a work in progress. He has had some games where he’s pulled down double digit rebounds, although it’s not something he does on a nightly basis. He’s a very good passer for a forward. His free throw shooting was atrocious in his rookie season, but is up to a much more respectable .745% this year (from .551% last year). His defense is very good, as he makes good decisions, has very quick hands and a knack for collecting steals, but lacks the strength to deal with some of the bigger 3′s and 4′s if he’s trying to defend inside, and is sometimes exposed by some of the better players.

Player A: 33.3 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG, .438 FG%, .384 3P%, .847 FT% 
Player B: 37.4 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .451 FG%, .385 3P%, .745 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 12.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .428 FG%, .315 3P%, .677 FT% 

Player A is Danny Granger’s career averages. Player B is Parsons this season. Player C is Trevor Ariza’s numbers per 36 minutes throughout his career. Chandler is probably closer to Granger than Ariza, at least on the offensive end (Ariza is the superior defender).

Patrick Patterson: 
Ceiling – LaMarcus Aldridge
Floor – Brandon Bass

Patterson has a long way to go before he’s as good as LeMarcus Aldrige, but he is a similar player, and has shown quite a bit of improvement this season. He’s become very consistent with his midrange jumper, and also appears to have gained a bit of strength, which helps him in the post. He’s added a three pointer to his arsenal, with mixed success. In a way, he’s the anti-Parsons – he doesn’t shoot enough. He seems to lose confidence quickly on the court after a couple of misses, and has trouble getting into a rhythm after that, often passing up wide open looks. If he could learn to be more assertive, he could be a very good scorer in this league. His rebounding isn’t quite Andrea Bargnani-bad, but it’s not very good. His defense is certainly getting better, but he’s far from elite. He’s an athletic player who can be streaky, but is an extremely good scorer when he’s on. He seems to shy away form banging bodies in the post at times, although he’s good at it.

Player A: 35.1 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .493 FG%, .204 3P%, .778 FT% 
Player B (per 36 minutes): 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .496 FG%, .325 3P%, .742 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 14.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .491 FG%, .000 3P%, .824 FT% 

Player A is LaMarcus Aldridge’s career averages. Player B is Patterson’s numbers per 36 minutes this season. Player C is Brandon Bass’s career numbers per 36 minutes.

Omer Asik: 
Ceiling – Marcus Camby
Floor – Ben Wallace

Asik is a very good post defender and a rebounding machine. His offense this season is much improved, but hardly something to write home about. He’s not as strong as one would like for a center, but is stronger than many centers in today’s NBA. His shot blocking numbers aren’t as high as one might have hoped. He still does need work finishing at the rim – most of his shots are from very close range, which means that his .482 FG% is actually pretty poor. His free throw shooting is much improved this season, but remains inconsistent, and he is still under 60% from the line. His rebounding, however, is incredible – and consistent. In short, he will have a home in the NBA as a Marcus Camby/Ben Wallace type of player, as long as he maintains his current skill level.

Player A (per 36 minutes): 11.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.9 BPG, .467 FG%, .205 3P%, .672 FT% 
Player B (per 36 minutes): 7.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.4 BPG, .474 FG%, .137 3P%, .414 FT% 
Player C (per 36 minutes): 9.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, .512 FG%, N/A 3P%, .513 FT% 

Player A is Marcus Camby’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes. Player B is Ben Wallace’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes. Player C is Omer Asik’s numbers for his career per 36 minutes.

Rockets Early Numbers

15 games so far and a 7-8 record. Not bad for a team that is:

- The lowest paid roster in the entire league by far. At $48M, the Rockets are paid roughly 20% less than the second cheapest roster (the Phoenix Suns) and less than 50% of the most expensive (the LA Lakers).
- The youngest roster in the entire league. The oldest members of the team are Carlos Delfino (30), Toney Douglas (26), and Omer Asik (26).
- The least experienced roster in the entire league. Kobe Bryant has more NBA minutes than the entire Rockets team combined.
- Without their head coach for the past 11 games (RIP Alexandra “Shasha” McHale).

What was expected to be a very rough rebuilding season has turned into a potential playoff run (whether that’s good or not in the long term). Currently ranked 11th and 17th respectively by the Hollinger and Stein Power Rankings on ESPN, the Rockets have shown to be outperforming their record. In a comparison to other 30 teams, the Rockets actually run the fastest and 10th most effective offense in the league.

PACE AST TO REBR EFF FG% TS% OFF EFF DEF EFF
1st 17th 24th 8th 10th 9th 10th 20th

Individually, the Rockets have a wide breadth of skills that may not shine individually, but thus far balance out the team as a whole.

PLAYER GP MPG TS% AST TO USG REBR PER
Greg Smith 10 11.8 0.637 15.7 5.9 15.0 16.9 21.61
James Harden 15 38.8 0.574 17.2 13.1 27.1 6.0 20.90
Patrick Patterson 14 29.7 0.560 6.8 7.3 18.4 9.7 16.72
Chandler Parsons 14 38.1 0.596 18.6 11.4 16.8 10.2 15.98
Marcus Morris 15 21.4 0.552 7.5 6.8 16.8 11.2 15.46
Omer Asik 15 32.7 0.508 8.1 20.6 16.7 20.9 13.50
Jeremy Lin 15 34.4 0.456 31.2 14.2 18.5 7.2 12.64
Cole Aldrich 8 8.6 0.538 7.6 7.6 14.2 13.6 12.43
Daequan Cook 8 13.9 0.490 14.8 5.6 16.9 6.5 12.18
Carlos Delfino 8 23.6 0.467 15.9 10.6 17.6 9.0 10.59
Toney Douglas 14 15.6 0.455 19.0 16.7 20.3 4.3 7.70

Individual accolades for the starters:

Omer Asik – 3rd in the league for rebounds
James Harden – 5th in scoring, 15th in steals, 25th in assists
Jeremy Lin – 7th in steals and 14th in assists
Chandler Parsons – Top 50 in scoring, FG%, rebounds, and assists
Patrick Patterson – 19th in FG%

A very encouraging start for a team that should improve through experience and additions over the season(s).

Early Number Crunch

Jeremy has played 8 games into the season as a Houston Rocket, so we have some real world data to look at to where his game is going this season.

Here is a raw snapshot of his current Player Efficiency Rating (PER) numbers after 8 games:

PLAYER

MPG

TS%

AST

TO

REBR

USG

PER

Jeremy Lin

34.5

0.462

30

12.3

7.2

18.7

14.56

Keep in mind that the PER stat is normalized so that the league average is 15, which unfortunately, means that Jeremy is currently slightly below that (151 overall rank among all qualified players).

Interpreting these stats against all other point guards leads to the following:

  • 38th overall in PER
  • 49th in True Shooting Percentage
  • 26th in Assist Ratio
  • 27th in Turnover Ratio (lower the better)
  • 18th in Rebound Rate
  • 45th in Usage Rate

The positives are the rebound rate, the vast improvement in turnover ratio, and unlisted is the fact that Jeremy is currently tied for 3rd in the league for steals (2.5) per game. Usage rate is primarily due to the strength of James Harden handling the ball periodically and coordinating plays, which can be a good thing for the team, but often leaves Jeremy out of it.

The real problem is Jeremy’s shooting this season, as it’s the lowest of all the Rockets starters and is really starting to affect the outcome of games. At the end of last season, Jeremy’s TS% was around 55.2%, significantly higher than the current 46.2%. Not only is his shooting percentage getting lower, but the number of shot attempts seems to be lowering as well over the past few games. Jeremy started the first 3 games averaging 14 FG attempts, while the later 5 games dropped to 9 FG attempts. Those watching the games may realize that part of this is from the relatively fewer number of foul calls the referees are giving out this year for drives to the basket, which may be discouraging Jeremy from getting to the rim and settling for the outside shots he’s less adept at.

Still a lot of basketball to look forward to and realistically, the Rockets agenda is much more long term with such a young team, but Jeremy needs to keep working at it to solidify his role as the primary ball handler and 2nd/3rd option for scoring.

Full statistics per game in forums

Everybody Wants to be King of New York

Stanford, UCLA, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the New York Knicks.

The list of organizations that had Jeremy Lin in their grasp just to let him go again. Each one expressed the deepest regret of using their biased gut, and not taking a closer look and believing in their eyes. The Rockets learned their lesson and made an effort to rectify their mistake, one that seemed futile two weeks ago, but only succeeded when the Knicks made the same mistake as so many have done before them. What makes it so much worse for the Knicks is that they saw Linsanity up close and should have known exactly how much Jeremy changed basketball in Madison Square Garden. The lack of offer from the Knicks came down to three factors, two of which should have heavily favored Jeremy, while the last ultimately trumped both others.

The Money

Ticket prices and sales of Jeremy’s jersey (#2 for 2012) are only a glimpse of what he brought to the team. Linsanity also brought prominence to several of his Knicks teammates, most notably Landry Fields, Jared Jefferies, Steve Novak, and Iman Shumpert. Being a public company, Madison Square Garden stock has benefitted greatly from Jeremy and its increase in market value since February 2011 is about 10 times the annual salary of the entire Knicks roster. The reality is that nobody has even begun to truly capitalize on Jeremy marketing value. Since Linsanity, he’s only signed two endorsement contracts, one for Volvo and a renewal with Nike [edit: also Steiner Sports as a 3rd]. A countless number of firms have unofficially used his name and likeness to sell products, but we have only seen the tip of the iceberg due to his flash celebrity. It’s been analyzed over and over again, but the cost of Jeremy’s contract, which would have been a very distant 4th on the team, would be nothing compared to his revenue generating potential. This factors in if ALL of the luxury tax were to be attributed to him solely and his performance regresses to an uninspiring league average despite increased NBA experience. Aside from Jeremy destroying his own image (i.e. Jason Kidd’s drunk driving), which is unlikely given his flawless background, signing him would have guaranteed a substantial net positive income for the Knicks. That being said, it wasn’t about the money.

The Basketball

A popular argument against Jeremy is that he’s still unproven and his limited experience of 35 games last season is a risk. Being good in a competitive sport is about perspective. If the Knicks had gotten Steve Nash, then one could argue that Nash is still producing great numbers consistently and would be a safer bet at greatness next year. Fact is, the Knicks didn’t get Nash, they got Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton. Remember the Hollinger PER stat discussed in previous entries? Jeremy ended the season at 19.97, Raymond Felton at 13.46, and Jason Kidd at 13.11, while the league average is fixed at 15.0. Disregarding Jeremy’s numbers for a moment, his two replacements are both BELOW AVERAGE. The argument will then shift to Jeremy’s “inflated” number since he only played 35 games. In 35 games though, Jeremy’s added value of 125.8, which only accumulates through games played, is more than the added values of Felton  (70.1) and Kidd (43.4) COMBINED playing 108 games. For reference, Nash’s added value is 271.9 over 62 games, but again, the Knicks didn’t get Nash. In a good scenario, Jeremy improves as he should, since he’s young, has limited experience, and point guards tend to peak much later in their career. In a bad scenario, Jeremy regresses to league average… which is still better than Felton and Kidd. The last argument will be about turnovers… let’s just say that the four players mentioned in this section had turnover ratio rankings of 10, 11, 13, and 20 in the league this past season (#1 ranking = the most frequent turnovers). If reducing turnovers was the Knicks top priority, it hasn’t been solved by switching between any of these guys. Add it all together, it wasn’t about the basketball.

The Ego

So if a player is bringing in more money and wins, the only real factor left is whether they like him or not. Despite being wildly popular amongst fans and publicly socializing with teammates, somebody in the Knicks organization clearly doesn’t like Jeremy. The two main suspects are the owner, James Dolan, and Carmelo Anthony.

Despite being encouraged to explore his free agency options, Dolan has been reported to have felt betrayed by Jeremy working with the Rockets. This could have been easily solved (or at least made clear) if the Knicks had made the first move and made Jeremy’s resigning their first priority. Instead, they signed Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, J.R. Smith, and Pablo Prigioni before Jeremy even got an offer from the Rockets. Regardless of Jeremy’s allegiance, any decent agent would have gone ahead and secured the best offers possible for their client, just to give them options. In Jeremy’s case in particular, a man who’s danced with unemployment numerous times over the past two years should try to secure as many offers as possible for good reason.

As for Carmelo Anthony, who openly called Jeremy’s contract “ridiculous”, might as well have joined other haters in shouting “overrated”. Every player wants to both win and have the spotlight, but for an all-star that has the worst playoff record in the past 20 years, the spotlight might be the only thing that’s left and Linsanity was about to steal it away on a long-term basis. Maybe the number of fans who taped over the “1” on Anthony’s #17 jerseys to mimic the #7 of Jeremy’s started to get to him.

Perhaps other egos were at play behind the scenes. Coach Mike Woodson has long been an advocate of veterans over rookies, but had been unflinchingly supportive of Jeremy in the past month. Maybe General Manager Glen Grunwald wasn’t a fan of Jeremy either for one reason or another. Ultimately, when Jeremy has the financials, stats, and fans on his side, there had to have been somebody with influence and authority to have said “I don’t like him”. You can’t be the king of New York when Jeremy Lin is more popular than you.

Discussion on the forums

The Silver (Lin)ing

Since the regular season is over for Jeremy, we take an early look at his season personal statistics. Again using the ESPN Player Efficiency Rating (PER) mentioned in previous posts, Jeremy is currently ranked 10th amongst point guards and 37th overall in the league with a PER of 19.94. The point guard ranking is unlikely to change at all, while the NBA overall ranking should not waver by more than 4 positions in either direction as the few remaining games should have low impact on average PER for other players going forward. The two figures below compare the distribution of point guards and all players in the league, with the blue bar representing the bucket that Jeremy falls in.

While regressed from his Linsanity start, Jeremy ends the season with strong support that he not only belongs in the best basketball league in the world, but as one of the better starting point guards.

In the past two months, we’ve seen Jeremy demonstrate feats of strength, speed, skill, toughness both mental and physical, and leadership. We’ve also seen his opponents rising up to meet him by adapting to his style and playing harder than they have all season just so that they won’t get “showed up by the rookie”. As his opponents adapt to “Linsanity”, Jeremy has also broadened his array of weapons in the more recent weeks, as he is forced to drive to the basket from the left side, taken awkward jumpers against suffocating defense, fouled hard at almost every game, and become better at handling the ball against aggressive defenders looking to force turnovers. While six weeks may seem like a lifetime for true fans, the best of Jeremy Lin is still in the making.

Game Log, Full Season Statistics, and Discussion Thread

Linsanity When it Counts

Blog post on ESPN that looks at Jeremy’s stats during the final minutes of a game. Not only is he relying on himself to take more shots and control the fate of the final few minutes, but he’s also shooting better than ever then:

Ever since he waved off a coach, a teammate and a playcall before hitting the biggest bucket of his life — that game-winning 3 in isolation in Toronto — it has struck me that in terms of crunch-time temperament, Lin is as much like [Kobe] Bryant as anyone…

Just to test the idea that Lin and Bryant are similarly ball dominant in crunch time, I fired up NBA.com’s fancy secret new stats tool, and found Lin does like to have the ball in his hands in crunch time, almost as much as Bryant, who is an all-timer in that regard.

In the final five minutes of games within five points, Bryant’s usage rate is a high 42.4. Lin’s is close behind, at 36.6 — higher than, say, Chris Paul’s 33.9, and in the same range as Kevin Durant (40.1) and Carmelo Anthony (43.5). You might say that’s heady stuff for a player whose coach keeps reminding people is effectively a rookie.

But also worth noting is that in these short minutes — Lin has played just 39 that qualify — he has had the best true shooting percentage of the bunch. He has taken 24 shots in 39 crunch time minutes, and hit only nine of them. The secret to his efficiency has been that he has made three of his five 3-pointers, while getting to the line an impressive 18 times, while missing just two. The result is a true shooting percentage (a measure that accounts for 3s and free throws) of 58, compared to Paul’s 57.2, Durant’s 53.8, Anthony’s 43.5 and Bryant’s 42.7.

Forum Discussion Thread

Knicks PER-spective

As a follow up to Linsanity By the Numbers, I’m going to take another snapshot of Jeremy and the Knicks using the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) developed by John Hollinger of ESPN. Jeremy’s PER ranking has fallen a bit since the game against the Miami Heat, where opponents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have the top two ratings in the entire NBA respectively. While a single bad game may diminish the Linsanity hype, it’s still only a single data point in the realm of statistics. Here are the top 10 point guards in the league with their overall rankings (*edit* added Rondo by popular demand):

Rank PLAYER GP MPG USG PER
4 Chris Paul, LAC 27 36.3 24.0 26.36
5 Derrick Rose, CHI 27 35.5 29.1 24.88
12 Russell Westbrook, OKC 35 35.2 30.8 23.26
13 Jeremy Lin, NY 22 24.5 29.3 22.99
18 Steve Nash, PHX 31 32.1 22.8 22.52
22 Tony Parker, SA 34 34.4 27.6 21.83
23 Stephen Curry, GS 22 30.6 23.0 21.72
27 Kyrie Irving, CLE 30 31.0 26.8 21.21
30 Lou Williams, PHI 36 26.4 26.7 21.05
33 Deron Williams, NJ 35 37.4 30.1 20.93
64 Rajon Rondo, BOS 24 36.7 23.2 18.26

GP = Games played
MPG = Minutes per game
USG = Usage rate (relative measure of how often they handle the ball)
PER = Player Efficiency Rating (league average is 15)

As we’ve seen in the past with various measures, Jeremy’s performance is in the top tier, though his numbers are more volatile than others since he only has 13 full games under his belt (hence the seemingly low MPG). Even with good, but not “Linsane”, performances like yesterday’s victory against the Cavaliers, his PER can easily maintain its top 20 ranking for the rest of the season.

Here are the PER numbers for the rest of the Knicks (Baron Davis, J.R. Smith, and Jerome Jordan are not included due to limited minutes/games):

Rank PLAYER GP MPG USG PER
40 Tyson Chandler, NY 36 33.4 11.4 19.77
50 Carmelo Anthony, NY 26 34.2 29.2 19.37
72 Steve Novak, NY 24 15.6 15.9 17.61
103 Amare Stoudemire, NY 30 33.6 23.4 16.12
194 Landry Fields, NY 36 31.8 14.8 13.12
213 Josh Harrellson, NY 16 18.5 12.6 12.36
254 Jared Jeffries, NY 26 22.1 11.0 10.69
257 Iman Shumpert, NY 29 29.9 19.5 10.56
300 Bill Walker, NY 30 20.3 14.2 8.46
323 Toney Douglas, NY 26 20.8 23.1 6.32
326 Mike Bibby, NY 21 13.9 13.2 6.11

For the Knicks fans that had to watch Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby be the primary point guard, I feel your pain through the numbers. The other big disappointment from projections at the beginning of the season has been Amare Stoudemire, who is heralded as one of the stars of the team, but is currently barely cracking the league average in PER. Jared Jefferies and Tyson Chandler have both been producing better than their initial predictions, in no small part due to Jeremy’s ball handling for the past 13 games. Jefferies is still undervalued in that the number of offensive fouls that he draws from opponents is one of the best in the league, but doesn’t appear on any stat sheet (should be counted as steals in my opinion).

It will be interesting to see how the PER of each individual Knicks player shapes up throughout the season as their point guard troubles seemed to have been solved.

Full Stats and Discussion on the Forums