Last month I wrote a FanPost about how based on historical data, Jeremy Lin's 26-game run is almost guaranteed to not be just a fluke. However, my analysis compared him to players that were already seasoned veterans when they put 19+ points/8+ assists/2+ steals stretches, as well as players like Magic Johnson that far surpassed the 19/8/2 threshold (for example at age 27, Magic put up a stretch of 27 games where he averaged 23 points, 14 assists and 2 steals).
In this post, I wanted to get a better perspective on Lin's 26 games by examining the careers of players that achieved a similar stretch of performances early on in their careers like Lin, who was only 23 and in his second season. I drew up a new search, this time setting the constraints to look for players who had stretches of 26+ games where they averaged within 10% of Lin's 2011-2012 per 36 minute averages in points, assists and steals (17.5 - 21.5 points, 7.3 - 8.9 assists, 1.9 - 2.3 steals), and more importantly did it for the first time before the age of 25. This new search excludes players like Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas who performed at a much higher level, as well as players like Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson who were in their late 20s when they accomplished it. Along with the player, I've also included the age when they first achieved such a streak ("Age"), their NBA experience level at the time ("Season"), as well as their basic per 36 minute statistics for their respective 26+ game stretches:
Table 1. Players under the age of 25 that, in at least 26 consecutive games, averaged 17.5 - 21.5 points, 7.3 - 8.9 assists, 1.9 - 2.3 steals per 36 minutes, and 20+ minutes played since 1985-1986
As you can see from the "Season" column, Tim Hardaway was the only one to accomplish it in his rookie season. Most guys accomplished it in their 2nd or 3rd season and Baron Davis was the most veteran of the bunch when he accomplished it in his 5th season. Chris Paul was the youngest at 21. Overall, including Lin, they averaged 19.0 points, 7.9 assists, 2.0 steals and 3.5 turnovers over a 34.9 game stretch.
Next, let's look at how these players performed the 3 seasons following their performances from Table 1:
Table 2. Per 36 minute statistics for the 3 seasons following the streaks from Table 1
As a group, they did pretty well, averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 assists and 1.9 steals over their respective 3 seasons, which definitely bodes well for Lin. None of these players had huge drop-offs in performance. Anfernee Hardaway suffered through chronic injuries and thus was the only one that saw production drops in both points and assists. Mark Jackson and Andre Miller developed into more pass first point guards and saw their shots and points decrease but their assists increase. For the most part, everyone else saw marked increases in production.
The most interesting of the group is Robert Pack, who like Lin was undrafted, had an unremarkable rookie season, and then put up similar numbers (18.8 points, 7.5 assists, 1.9 steals, and 4.2 turnovers per 36) in a 44 game stretch his second season at the age of 23. And like Lin, he struggled with turnovers. However the major difference was that in Pack's second year, he put up his numbers in only 20.5 minutes per game, coming off the bench in all but one of his games, whereas the majority of Lin's performances were as a starter. Nevertheless, Pack ended up having a fairly successful career as a starter, averaging 15.9 points, 8.7 assists and 1.9 steals per 36 minutes in 157 starts.
So you can see there has been historical precedent when trying to evaluate Lin's situation. Robert Pack has the most similar career arc to Lin's, but even going off just his stats, it's tough to justify the hypothesis that Lin's production will decrease much over the long run. And comparing him to the rest of the players, there's definitely a good possibility for Lin to continue his level of production going forward.