As soon as Mike D'Antoni was introduced as head coach, rumors started swirling that he gave the Rockets the inside track to signing Jeremy Lin this off season. That is mainly because MDA was coaching the Knicks when "Linsanity" occurred, and the two have stayed in contact over the past couple of years, building a solid relationship. In the link above, we previously wrote on Lin's relationship with D'Antoni and how that could bring him back to Houston this season. The question is: should the Rockets bring Lin back? The answer is yes.
Now, hear me out for a second. Yes Lin isn't the sexiest name the Rockets can sign this free agency. From Kevin Durant to Al Horford and Mike Conley, there are several marquee free agents that would be significant upgrades for the Rockets. However, as we found out this past week, the Rockets aren't on Durant's list, there will be heavy competition for Horford, and Conley is most likely going to re-sign with the Grizzlies. After Conley, Lin is arguably the best point guard available, since no one wants to go near the toxic Rajon Rando. The downside of the weak free agent point guard class is that Lin will be heavily coveted and may be hesitant to return to Houston.
Why would Lin be hesitant to reunite with Mike D'Antoni you ask? Well, many will remember the ugly breakup between the Rockets and Lin two summers ago, as the Rockets posted pictures of Carmelo Anthony wearing Lin's jersey in the hopes of signing him. Lin was admittedly upset with the PR campaign, and it remains to be seen whether he would be willing to look past the disrespect to come back to the Rockets.
Another possible reason Lin may be hesitant to come back to Houston is James Harden. The two never really built the chemistry you would want from your starting backcourt, forcing Kevin McHale to start Beverley over Lin in his final year with the Rockets. With that aside, let's take a look at Lin's game (which we are all familiar with) and how it could fit with the Rockets.
Lin is an offensive minded, attacking point guard. We all knew that already. During his season with the Hornets, Lin turned in to a go to scorer off the bench, averaging 11.7 points per game, 3 assists per game, and 3 rebounds per game. Lin had a couple explosive games last season, and showed flashes of his "Linsanity" days:
Lin is a career 34.6% three point shooter, making him enough of a threat to play off the ball for stretches next to Harden. Although as I mentioned previously, Lin and Harden didn't mesh well together, I have complete confidence that unlike McHale, D'Antoni can actually run an offensive system that involves Harden and Lin in a way that suits both of their strengths. Also, if Lin is comfortable with being the go-to guy off the bench (which he may very well not be), he would be able to run D'Antoni's offense with the ball in his hands. Lin would be an excellent backup point guard and a much needed upgrade from the corpse of Jason Terry the Rockets have relied on the past two seasons.
The question and concern comes down to what kind of contract Lin is looking for. Lin recently admitted that he is looking to find a "home" after being on five teams in the last six years. After hearing that, it seems that Lin will eschew two\- year deal with a player option in the second year — a contract experts expect to see plenty of as free agents look to re-enter the market next offseason when the cap jumps up again —for a three- to four-year deal in order to gain some job security (which, ironically, is never guaranteed under Daryl Morey).
With the cap jump, it wouldn't be unreasonable to find Lin commanding anywhere from $8-13 million per year. While that seems steep, Lin is only 27 and is in his basketball prime (plus, Harrison Barnes will most likely end up being maxed. Think about that. Barnes is essentially the Jeremy Lin of small forwards).
Yes, Jeremy Lin brings some baggage with him. His relentless fan base will torture Rockets die hards every day when Lin doesn't get enough playing time or gets chastised by James Harden. Lin is a weak defender (although he does make an effort) and Rockets fans don't have the greatest memories of Lin (see: Game 4 of the playoff series vs. the Blazers in 2014).
However, with Mike D'Antoni on board, Lin becomes the perfect, realistic target for the Rockets at point guard. Lin is still a big upgrade over Jason Terry, is familiar with (and likes) D'Antoni, and shouldn't be too expensive for the Rockets. Plus, he can bring a wide variety of hairstyles to keep Rockets fans entertained day in and day out.