What Lin Means to the Nets
After a few wins with Jeremy Lin in the lineup, it’s time to see what impact the point guard has had on the team this year. Lin’s only played in 27 games this season according to ESPN, but is also having the best season statistically of his career since his original “Linsanity” days as a New York Knick. Lin’s averaging almost 14 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds per game, by far his second best averages of his career besides his magical season at the Garden. It’s also important to note that Lin only played 35 games that year as well.
In terms of team wins, the Nets have gotten 9 out of their 15 wins with Lin playing. The team is 9 and 19 in the games that Lin has played in, and 7-38 without Lin this year. The Nets have lost a lot of close games this year, mostly due to poor execution down the stretch or just running out of gas late in the game after battling for three and a half quarters. Lin’s presence and experience should have helped the Nets win more of those close games, and maybe would have prevented the two 10+ game losing streaks earlier this season. There were a few games in the those streaks that were the Nets for the taking, but the team couldn’t figure out a way to close the game out. Lin was brought in to help in those situations.
Lin also brings leadership to some of the young players that the Nets are hoping to build the future around. Rondae Hollis Jefferson and Caris LeVert have been two of the main guys that Lin has been rumored to be mentoring and teaching. When Lin is on the floor, Jefferson averages 9 points per game and 1.5 assists as opposed to 8 points per game and 2 assists when Lin doesn’t play. LeVert averages 8 points per game and 2 assists per game with Lin, but averages 12 points per game and 2 assists without Lin in the lineup, all according to ESPN. Keep in mind that LeVert himself has only played in 48 games this year after missing the first few months of the season recovering from an injury.
These stats make sense because in Lin’s absence, the Nets wanted to use Jefferson as more of a playmaker for other guys, and wanted LeVert to take on more of a scoring role. So it’s natural that Jefferson’s assists and LeVert’s points would go up with Lin not there. When watching the games, Lin would always have one of those two to the side talking to them during timeouts and stoppages, even in the games where he wasn’t playing.
Next year, look for these two to take a major jump in statistics if all three are on the floor together for most of the season. During the Nets fantastic March, both Jefferson and LeVert are averaging 9 points per game and 2 assists. The chemistry and confidence in both LeVert and Jefferson has been tremendous lately, and if the Nets can finish the season strong, I believe that those two should have a load of confidence coming into next year.
Lin’s value also isn’t so much what he brings to the table, but what the Nets don’t bring when he’s out. The biggest issue: the Nets do not have another true point guard on the team. In Lin’s extended absence, the Nets have tried using young guards Sean Kilpatrick and Isaiah Whitehead as their point guards, but neither experiment turned out well for the team. Both guys, as talented as they are, do not have point guard skills and do not have the basketball IQ to run the offense consistently. To make matters worse, neither one of them have good enough handles to operate against opposing guards without turning the ball over. The Nets do have Spencer Dinwiddie, but he is not a starting point guard at the NBA level.
Lin’s absence shows up in the turnover department the most. In the months where Lin was out the most (November, December, January, and half of February), the Nets have averaged 16.5, 17.4, 15, and 17.7 turnovers a game respectively. Since Lin’s return, the Nets have only averaged 14 turnovers a game according to Basketball reference.
With Lin on the floor, the other Nets guards can play their proper positions (Kilpatrick and Whitehead at the two, and Dinwiddie coming off the bench) and the Nets offense flows a lot better. The turnovers come down, and the offensive efficiency goes up. The Nets have averages 108.5 points per game in the Month of March, by far, their highest average of the season. And while they are still giving up 108.9 points per game, March has still been their best defensive month as well, all according to Basketball Reference. This is because of the lack of turnovers that lead to easy points for the opposition. Less turnovers equals more opportunities for the Nets to score, and less opportunities for the opponent to.
With that said, the first year of the “Linsanity Part 2” experiment receives an incomplete grade. However, I’m excited to see what happens next year, if Lin and Lopez can stay healthy all year. The Nets are able to snag two draft picks in this year’s draft (and you can read more on why that’s good here), and I think if they can get two more solid rotation pieces, I believe the Nets can be a competitive team next year. Maybe not make the playoffs and definitely won’t be competing for a championship, but don’t be surprised if the Nets are a team competing for the 8th seed late in the season next year if they can stay healthy. Depending on what the Knicks do with Carmelo Anthony this offseason, and if other teams decide to tank, maybe the Nets could sneak in as a lower seed. Now that would be Linsane!