Unless you’re a Patriots fan still grieving that tough Super Bowl loss and have refused to watch anything on ESPN, you might not be aware of the latest sensation taking over Madison Square Garden.
After having just been assigned to the D-League in January, Harvard grad and undrafted point guard Jeremy Lin has been given the keys to the struggling New York Knicks offense and has more than exceeded previous expectations.
Lin has lead the Knicks to four straight wins without the help of perennial All-Stars Carmelo Anthony (out with a groin injury) and Amare Stoudemire (out due to the recent passing of his brother). After officially being named the starter in the second of those four games he went on to set an NBA record by scoring the most points (89) by any player in their first three starts since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976-77.
Now, I’m not going to be ignorant and give him the title of the greatest ever or even the best point guard in the game right now. But after dropping 38 points against a Lakers squad many would still consider to be a top-ten team in the league, Lin definitely deserves some respect as a good player in the NBA.
But the question still remains. Where will Lin fit in once ‘Melo and STAT return to action?
Players like Stoudemire need a point guard to give them easy looks in addition to being able to create their own shots—which is why he was able to succeed in Phoenix alongside Steve Nash. Lin’s presence on the offensive end of the ball would have a positive impact on most of his teammates due to his ability to get the ball in the right spot at the right time. The only problem might arise when Anthony decides to revert back to the ball-hogging that has been prevalent for the majority of the season.
At times, Carmelo can be very effective as the main player controlling the ball. But he has also shown that too much ball handling can lead to very sloppy and inconsistent play. With a true point guard in Lin handling most of the ball handling duties, that would free up the offense allowing Anthony to earn easier shot attempts more frequently as opposed to forcing shots off the dribble.
Naturally, Lin won’t continue to score at such a high pace as opposing teams will adjust and mark him higher on the priority list in scouting reports. However, as the third option behind Anthony and Stoudemire, Lin may still be able to be effective in the long run for the Knicks with his role being the primary distributor and leaving the heavy duty scoring to the All-Stars in the frontcourt.
All that being said, it still remains that the point guard position is easily the most congested on the Knicks’ roster. Rookie Iman Shumpert has started in 16 games this season and was the starter prior to Lin’s recent emergence. Former All-Star Baron Davis, now plagued with an infected elbow in addition to his previous back injury, is not expected to return to practice for at least another week according to Yahoo! Sports. Thirteen-year point guard Mike Bibby also fills a spot in the Knicks backcourt this season.
It would be foolish for the Knicks to part ways with their younger talented players in Shumpert and Lin, but Davis may still hold some value in the trade market as teams like the Los Angeles Lakers search for improvement at the point guard position. If the Knicks can trade away their aging point guard in exchange for possible improvement on the bench, they might be able to finish the season off much better than previously expected.
A starting lineup featuring Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler could be an effective group under Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense. This adjustment could also generate much-needed change on the defensive end with Lin and Shumpert providing solid perimeter defense and Chandler continuing to be effective in his role as the low-post defender and rebounder.
Landry Fields would provide scoring off the bench as the designated sixth-man which is a role I feel he could be very efficient playing as. D’Antoni is not one to utilize more than an eight-man rotation and having capable starters coming off the bench adds immediate depth to the team and fits in well with this system.
The unexpected play of Jeremy Lin could be just the catalyst the Knicks needed to turn this season around moving into the second half of the season.