Player Previews: Can Jeremy Lin reignite 'Linsanity' in Houston?

Bob Levey

Linsanity in its original form may be over, but can Jeremy Lin bring it back in Houston?

There aren't many times when you get a second chance with somebody, especially in the NBA. With Jeremy Lin, the Rockets lucked out, and didn't wait long to try to make up for lost time. In offering a three year contract at the maximum salary allowed, the Rockets certainly took a risk on a player with just 25 starts, but, was it worth it? Let's try and figure it out.

Watching Lin over the past couple of weeks in the pre-season has been a bit of a worrisome experience. In short, there are times where Lin has looked unabashedly awful. He's airballed jumpers, gotten torched defensively, and has simply not looked healthy in the early going. Through four games, he's made just 25% of his shots, hasn't broken double digits in scoring, and has turned the ball over multiple times in each contest.

After committing three years and $25 million to Lin to be the starting point guard moving forward, the Rockets have to be crossing their fingers that Lin can figure his problems out. It is just the pre-season, but with the public eye constantly on Lin, everything will be magnified.

Taking a step back gives us perhaps a better sense of what to expect from Lin. Mike Kurlyo of the New York Times' Off the Dribble Blog weighs in:

Given Lin's top 10 most comparable players, his future is muddled. Unlike [Pau] Gasol, Lin's comparable players aren't strong enough to forecast an all-star appearance in his future. Nor are they as weak as [Eddy] Curry's, which means that Lin will likely be better than trolling the league for an end-of-a-bench roster spot.

Lin does have a couple of former all stars on his immediate list, like Mark Jackson, Tim Hardaway and Clyde Drexler. But to reach that kind of potential, he will have to do a better job of limiting his turnovers while maintaining or improving on his other stats. Given a full recovery from his knee injury, most likely Lin will have at worst an average N.B.A. career, with the potential to be more. Unfortunately, statistics can't answer which path the Houston point guard will actually take.

In statistical analysis of Lin, this seems to be a common trend. Given Lin's tremendous success, even in a small sample size, most models struggle to project him as any worse than an average NBA point guard, with All-Star potential a legitimate possibility.

If Lin can build up his knee to full strength, I have no problem forecasting an above average season for him. Given his reputation, there's a pretty good chance he could skate into the All-Star game as well. With the ball constantly in his hands in a pick-and-roll heavy offense, Lin will be in an ideal situation to succeed, a similar spot to where he so excelled in New York.

People point to Lin's struggles later in the season as regression to the mean with teams figuring him out, but more than anything it appeared as if the Knicks weren't putting him in a position to succeed alongside black holes in Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Lin wasn't involved fully in the offense, and it was abundantly clear that he and Carmelo were oil and water on that Knicks squad.

Now, out of New York and away from Carmelo, this is Jeremy Lin's time to shine. He has less pressure to win, a coach and front office that are fully committed to him, and a fan base starving for some excitement in a rebuilding year. Regardless of whether he, Omer Asik, or Kevin Martin is the team's best player, Jeremy Lin is the new face of the franchise.

So, in the end, no, Lin is not going to be a superstar. Expecting him to match his 18 and 8 line as a starter next year would be pushing it, but there is no reason why Lin cannot settle into the starting point guard spot and contribute solid minutes to a team in need of steering. At $8 million a year, the Rockets are not paying Lin to be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, so disappointment when he doesn't live up to those expectations would be misplaced. What they are paying him to be is a solidly above average point guard, and there is no reason why he cannot reach that level.

Before we leave, the Troll of the Week award goes to Chris Palmer.

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