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Jeremy Lin: Agent of Chaos

As the season rounds out and sample sizes loom large, we can finally see just what this new Houston Rockets team is. After having by far the highest player turnover in the league, a Rockets team full of question marks has filled in a few blanks. One such question mark was the puzzling Jeremy Lin, a third string point guard who suddenly electrified the world with superstar level play for a dazzling month last February. Now that he’s spent a year as a starter, who is Jeremy Lin? Is he a star, a role player or a bust?

So far, he’s an exceedingly promising ball of chaos. While his shooting may not be as efficient as the team average, and he may not be likely to top ten in assists this year, he’s begun to find his role in Houston’s offense. Lin’s potential role looks similar to that of another point guard and agent of chaos, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook is an integral part to the Thunder’s elite offense, despite the fact that he subsists on what are traditionally thought of as poor shots. As his game has matured, he’s improved his scoring and more importantly his assists. He’s liable to take any shot with any coverage at any time, and he’s increasingly likely to find an open teammate, too. The value of Westbrook comes from the fact that his actions are unpredictable and somewhat outside of the defense’s gameplan.

Harden seems to be following Kevin Durant’s gameplan, shooting about twenty to twenty-five times a game, and looking for those shots to be efficient. Harden tends to end up poor shooting more often, but his free throws generally keep his true shooting percentages high. Westbrook offers an outlet for those other shots, the shots which make up the other 57 or so attempts per game. Westbrook’s willingness to shoot from midrange has been controversial, but the Thunder have been excellent under his stewardship.

Lin also has a propensity to shot the dreaded midrange two. Of all the players who’ve spent all season in Houston, he’s the only one who scores 10% or more of his points from midrange. Lin’s 12.6% may be well below the league average, but it’s well above Harden’s 7.7% and Parsons’ 6.3%. Even the range-happy Carlos Delfino only scores 8.9% of his points from midrange twos. Some of Lin’s most effective plays have come from his willingness to pop out from behind screens and nail a two point jumper, a shot that’s increasingly rare in Houston.

But this is exactly what Jeremy Lin can keep doing. He’s shoes that he can keep his dribble alive for long stretches, probing and circling the defense. He’s prone to no look passes from reckless drives into the lane, as well as circus shots in the teeth of the enemy defense. Just when he’s curled around the basket, looking to reset the offense, the defense will find another two point shot instead. If Harden is the embodiment of efficient offense, Lin is instead a disruption to the court, and he’s at his best when he’s most unpredictable.

The hope, then, is that he can develop along similar lines to Westbrook. After being known primarily as a scoring point guard, Westbrook has improved his assists per game by a whopping two from last year (5.5)  to this year (7.5). There’s no reason the think that Lin can’t follow a similar trajectory. While it’s not clear if Lin could ascend to a star level of play as Westbrook has, he can definitely play a similar role. When defenses have to account for unpredictable action and moves uncharacteristic of the team, the Rockets’ offense has that many more opportunities. If opposing players are pulled into planning according to the unplanned, and preventing unlikely attempts, the planned and likely is even easier.

The drawback to Lin’s madness is that it’s madness. His propensity to go up without a plan for when he comes down leads to turnovers, and his fearless forays into the paint often end in misses. But there’s value to staying at it, even when the chaos sours. Opposing defenses have to see Lin’s confidence and aggression for the chaos to work. As he improves, his internal entropy engine will only improve with him. While Lin’s style of play might result in some high turnover, low field goal games, the more aggressive he is, the better. In the middle of the Rockets’ efficient offense, some chaos is in order.

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Total comments: 32
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, that's what I was saying. Funny thing is, that was my biggest criticism of McHale's coaching, but I see that he has a perfectly reasonable explanation for that too.

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago Your prior point that Coach McHale is giving the tandem of Lin and Harden as many minutes together as possible to help both figure out the best way to play off each other. Rather than playing them for the most part separate from each other as one rests on the bench.

    That's the only way the tandem of Lin and Harden can come together and maximize their potential as our guards of the future.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Personally I feel like Lin defers to Harden too much somtimes, and like he said in the video he plays better when he's THE pg and not just A pg.

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago Watching the Rockets this season, it just doesn't seem as clear to me what some are saying about Harden and Beverly working better as a tandem than Harden and Lin. I think there are some games where it is clear that the Harden and Lin tandem are clicking and others where Harden and Beverly seem to be clicking.

    I'm not so sure that maybe it just has more to do with matchups and substitutions (meaning Beverly is matched up against a bench guy while Harden may have a starter on him (or a bench guy) in the 2nd quarter when Harden and Beverly are our guards).

    I'm OK with analytics and statistics, but I think sometimes you just have to go with experience and the game flow from a fans perspective (which is obviously subjective).

    I see many more flashes of brilliance out of Lin this season overall than Beverly, that's just my subjective opinion watching from the stands.
  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I've always thought Lin is the better pg, he just doesn't work as well with Harden as Bev does. I'm guessing the reason McHale plays most of Lin's minutes while Harden is on the floor because he wants Lin and Harden to figure out how to work together. We would be a better team if Lin was always on the floor while Harden rests, but McHale is thinking more towards the long term. I like how honest Lin is about his struggles with Harden here.

  • rocketrick says 1 YEAR ago Last night was indicative to me of which PG is the better: Lin or Beverly.

    Beverly struggled for the better part of this game while Lin had some really good minutes.

    And when we needed Beverly to step up the most, in the 4th quarter vs. Orlando, he withered at the vine in my opinion.
  • kevingan says 1 YEAR ago

    Let's hope they both do, and break through their ceilings on the way to the championship! Go Rockets!

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I can see the logic there, Lin probably does have a higher ceiling.

  • kevingan says 1 YEAR ago

    2016, there's no single thing that can be called "human nature"--it varies too much by context. And even if it did exist in some simple fashion, it would not be helping you to pick a starting rotation either: it would have bigger fish to fry.

    That said, I agree with Richards: Lin has a greater upside as a starting PG, because he's a) very intelligent; b) a deep student of the game; c) completely unselfish; d) strong and quick (not Beverly quick, but quick); e) gifted with exceptional court vision (say Hubie Brown and Magic Johnson); and f) has demonstrated a fierce will to win and a remarkable ability to find resourceful ways to rise to the occasion in crunch time.

    He's still inconsistent: he's just finishing his first full year. If the notion of "starter" versus "sixth man" means anything, Lin has more starter traits and Beverly has more sixth man traits. Both are real assets--I wish you'd be happy that they're there and stop pitting them against each other! Relax! Enjoy! We don't have a real problem here! Or so it seems to me.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    I think that Lin has higher ceiling. Most tend to forget that Lin played as a shooting guard in college.

    He started playing PG role in NBA. Before this season, he only started a few (I think less than 30) and only played garbage times prior.

    I believe Bev had more playing time than Lin at PG (not at Rockets).

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago I think their potential is similar
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    I think that the Lin Bev debate is closer than it should since Harden has the ball in his hands a lot. But I still like Lin better. Are you factoring in the fact that our bench is pretty good and Bev is playing against the other teams' bench? But even if they're as close as you think and 50/50, I still want Lin. The potential is there for him to be an all-star. That same potential isn't there for Beverley. You can't learn instinct. His ceiling is Derek Fisher and he's still lightyears away from that. Why would I give more time to Beverley when Lin has more potential. Why did Morey trade away Patterson?

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Player selection is in coach's hand and he will do what is best for the team. For is own success, future, and legacy as well.

    To me, Bev's sample size is too small and it is huge decision to start him at critical time. He brings a lot of defensive energy but Lin play a good defense too.

    I will only switch for either of two below.

    - If Lin plays so poorly than Bev

    - If Bev spot-up shooting is much better than Lin

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Great reference, but human nature isn't based off Hamlet's ideals.

    Seeing as you have a strong sense of what is and isn't ideal let me ask you this; considering the fact Lin and Beverley havepracticallybeen equally effective in helping the team win games (actually the Rockets have been playing slightly better with Beverley on the floor but lets not argue about the minor details), is it fair that it's the strong consensus Lin deserves the minutes more than Beverley? Idealistically, shouldn't the consensus be that they get a 50/50 timeshare?

  • kevingan says 1 YEAR ago

    LORD POLONIUS

    My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

    HAMLET

    God's bodykins, man, much better: use every man
    after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?
    Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less
    they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.

    (Amen!)

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    "disliking overrated players is normal."

    Well, 2016, I can't agree with you about what's "normal"--we all have different definitions of the norm, depending on our parents and the community we grew up in.

    Where I come from, it's neither normal nor productive to get upset about mass opinion: I was taught to form my own opinions regardless of what majorities of others thought. People think a lot of things, many of them ill-informed, many of them prejudiced, many of them at an early stage of development. If these thoughts don't harm others--and that's practically the definition of fans' thoughts, which have no practical effect whatsoever!--then let people experience what they experience, and feel what they feel.

    And if they do want to debate, as on a forum like this, fine, but let it be done without heat (not the same as "ardor") or putdowns. I don't know if you meant the comparison between Lin and Justin Bieber as a putdown, but it seems like one. Why insult Jeremy Lin (who is someone, I remind you, you started by saying you wanted to like!) when he is a productive member of this team, one who works hard and is trying to find his way, just like every other member?

    In any case, the analogy is inexact: as we are learning daily, Justin Bieber's character is nothing like Lin's, and Lin's basketball fundamentals are stronger than Bieber's musicianship: ask Clyde Frazier, Tony Parker, Mike D'Antoni, or Daryl Morey. The only thing they share is an overenthusiastic fan base: but you can hardly blame Lin for his, since he does nothing to encourage them--unlike Bieber, who fans their ardor every chance he gets.

    In other words, prefer Beverly all you like--he's great!--but don't blame Lin for people he can't control. That can't be fair to him! Or so it seems to me, as someone who likes this team and wants all of them to succeed together.

    I don't hate Lin or Justin Bieber, I merely think they are both far more popular than they deserve (hence the comparison). Lets say for example Michael Jordan's a 10 from a basketball standpoint and the worst basketball player in the league is a 0, Jordan deserves a level of popularity that is befitting of a player who is a 10 while the player who is a 0 deserves apopularitybefitting of a 0. However, Lin and Bieber or both 5's or 6's but they have the popularity of a 10. It's an injustice to the 5's and 6's who get treated like 5's and 6's. Does that make sense?

    Just about every single excessively famous person will have people who believe the same thing about them, and even if they don't dislike the person they will dislike the fact they are more popular than they deserve, therefore I consider my stance normal even though it may seem illogical. What is normal and what is logical are not mutually exclusive.

  • pharmag says 1 YEAR ago

    I actually posted on another topic that if Beverly and Lin continue to progress as expected, I think the two of them and Harden would make an excellent 3-guard rotation. In fact, I think Lin fits the vein of a 6th man player ala Ginobli or Harden (last year). Basically, all 3 of them could grow to co-exist, each getting at least 30 minutes a night on average, with Lin taking minutes at both PG and SG.

  • kevingan says 1 YEAR ago

    "disliking overrated players is normal."

    Well, 2016, I can't agree with you about what's "normal"--we all have different definitions of the norm, depending on our parents and the community we grew up in.

    Where I come from, it's neither normal nor productive to get upset about mass opinion: I was taught to form my own opinions regardless of what majorities of others thought. People think a lot of things, many of them ill-informed, many of them prejudiced, many of them at an early stage of development. If these thoughts don't harm others--and that's practically the definition of fans' thoughts, which have no practical effect whatsoever!--then let people experience what they experience, and feel what they feel.

    And if they do want to debate, as on a forum like this, fine, but let it be done without heat (not the same as "ardor") or putdowns. I don't know if you meant the comparison between Lin and Justin Bieber as a putdown, but it seems like one. Why insult Jeremy Lin (who is someone, I remind you, you started by saying you wanted to like!) when he is a productive member of this team, one who works hard and is trying to find his way, just like every other member?

    In any case, the analogy is inexact: as we are learning daily, Justin Bieber's character is nothing like Lin's, and Lin's basketball fundamentals are stronger than Bieber's musicianship: ask Clyde Frazier, Tony Parker, Mike D'Antoni, or Daryl Morey. The only thing they share is an overenthusiastic fan base: but you can hardly blame Lin for his, since he does nothing to encourage them--unlike Bieber, who fans their ardor every chance he gets.

    In other words, prefer Beverly all you like--he's great!--but don't blame Lin for people he can't control. That can't be fair to him! Or so it seems to me, as someone who likes this team and wants all of them to succeed together.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree those number don't mean much. We don't need scouts and guys like Morey if the do. :mellow:

    I have looked up the numbers for Harden, Parsons. Asik, Lin, and others non-Rockets player I follow.

    Comparison is very tough especially comparing starters and bench. And players from different teams.

    Sometime bench players had better numbers since they played against other bench players.

    That is why I always hesitate to use these numbers. Another example is your assist will be up if you are feeding LeBron and Durant.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Yeah, all the sample sizes are too small and how much more a player scores is not a good way to determine which player helps the team more.

    Just for the hell of it I looked some slightly more advanced stats and this is what I saw:

    Per 100 possessions Rockets score:

    100.2 points with Lin on the floor,

    103.2 points with Lin on the bench

    Per 100 possessions Rockets allow:

    107.4 points with Lin on the floor

    108.9 points with Lin on the bench

    Per 100 possessions Rockets score:

    113.2 points with Beverley on the floor

    100.9 points with Beverley on the bench

    Per 100 possessions Rockets allow:

    104.9 points with Beverley on the floor

    108.3 points with Beverley on the bench

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these stats mean anything. But if I never saw these stats I would have told you that the Rockets have been playing better on both ends while Beverley is on the floor, and alot of this has to do with the fact he doesn't turn the ball over which limits fast-break opportunities for the other team and gives us more possessions, also he grabs offensive rebounds which also gives us more possessions, and his energy is so fantastic it looks contagious. For whatever it's worth, these stats reinforce what I already believed.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Who fit better with Harden? Bev or Lin? The answer is its depend.

    So far this season, Harden and Lin had 12 (20+ points) and 45 (10+ points) games together. Numbers arn't great but at least respectable.

    As we all knew, Harden handle the ball more as season progress and Lin spot-up shooting % in first part of the season wasn't great.

    There were only small sample size for Harden and Bev together.

    Bev can give more defensive energy while Harden concentrate on offense. But Bev isn't great spot-up shooter either. Again, Bev sample size is small, so tough to make a good conclusion.

    But if game demand more offense, pairing Harden and Lin is better. I believe Harden and Lin can co-exist. I think Lin and Harden should handle the ball about 60% and 40% respectively to maximize their output.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago
    Kevin, disliking overrated players is normal. It's like how alot of music enthusiasts hate Justin Bieber.
    Not only is Lin overrated, but Beverley is a better fit next to Harden in that off-guard role, he's alot like Mario Chalmers to Lebron, Fisher was to Kobe, Kerr and Harper were to Jordan, washed up Payton was to Wade, Ainge was to Bird. I'm not saying Harden is as good as any of those superstars, but his role is to initiate the offense in a similar way scoring and passing when he gets doubled/tripled. When you have a guy like that you don't need a "true pg", you need an off-guard who plays his role and doesn't try to take over dribbling around in circles looking for an assist. However, for some crazy reason so many people are crying for Lin to take over more, all this fandom so much more than a player of his caliber deserves. That's why Jeremy Lin is like the NBA's Justin Bieber to me.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin might have more followers than any other NBA players. Assume, he has multi-millions followers, some a few hundred thousands might be as crazy as you can imagine. The best way to deal with those is, just ignore them.

    Yeah I like Lin. Like him as a person more than his game. I even want to say that he might be one of the best guys in NBA.

  • kevingan says 1 YEAR ago

    2016, if you want to like Lin, and you note that he is a hard worker and modest guy, why care what the media and other fans say? Why not continue your appreciation for what he brings to the team--quite a lot, for the most part--and ignore media silliness? Lin never asked for it, and he's been pretty clear at all times that Linsanity was fun, but it's over, especially for him. I think that attitude, which he doesn't just express but also clearly acts on, shows great maturity and character.

    I also like his style of play, so I'm predisposed to like him, allow for his inexperience, and hope for a lot of upside from him. I thought the Clippers game was interesting for a glimpse of what Morey had in mind before Harden fell into his lap: a team without real stars, but with a winning concept and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Just like the Knicks last year, actually, before Melo came back and ruined it. And when you add Harden, who's really smart and has his head screwed on right (the opposite of Melo, in other words) and possibly one more superstar to that bunch of team players, the potential is nearly limitless. As your handle says, 2016 Champions!

    Anyway, I'm hoping for good things from all the Rockets. And even expecting them (except in the case of poor Royce White...)

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Is anyone else getting sick of all the Lin talk? Lin is such a great modest guy and a hard worker who actually hates getting praise when he doesn't deserve it, I really want to like him, but every time he sits a little too long I see comments all over facebook and crying about. And then we win a game without Harden that was a great team effort and I'm seeing articles and comments praising Lin like it was all him. If McHale demoted Lin to a 6th man role he would probably get assassinated within a week.

  • RollingWave says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin is improving his 3 shooting a lot this year though, and he has coughed up a lot less TO this year relative to his previous seasons.

    but yeah, stacking their minutes more reasonably would probably help

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    Lin would be alot better if he had the ball in his hands 24/7, but that's not an option playing next to Harden who's going to take the ball out of Lin's hands and understandably so.

  • Richards says 1 YEAR ago

    IMO, This is the best Jeremy LIn article ever written.

    I always thought his play was lot like Westbrook except those "dumb shot" Westbrook threw up.
    Unlike Wesbrook, Lin force the way out instead of trying for "miracle shot", and end up with turnovers.

    I can see Lin can excel in certain styles but not in McHale. Still, he put up a decent numbers and I respect that.

    Lin played aggressive and handled ball more in his "good" games. His productivity was poor in games those Harden has high assists.

  • khyberjones says 1 YEAR ago This article doesn't focus on actual data we have from Lin's 1.5 seasons as a starter. He is not an inconsistent player. He is in fact very consistent and has improved in most key categories. In NY, when he took 10 or more shots, he shot around 45%. This year, he is shooting 47% with 10 or more FGAs. When he takes 14 or more shots, he shoots 51%. The team is 7 games above .500 when he takes 10 or more shots and .500 when he doesn't. He is averaging more assists, fewer turnovers, more rebounds and more steals with a sporadic to low usage rate and a sporadic minutes on the floor. With an improved mid-range and 3 point shot over the last 3 months, Lin may actually be a star level PG right now. You just can't see it every day because of the way McHale uses him.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    I can say this much....I would have pulled Lin one play earlier than he was in the first quarter of tonight's game. I wish I could diagnose what happened. I wouldn't be against a change of pace move...maybe split the PG minutes a little closer to 50/50 and let Lin be a Spark plug off the bench with Beverley starting. McHale can still use his hot hand technique to close the game out. Doesn't need to be permanent...maybe just shake things up.

  • 2016Champions says 1 YEAR ago

    I think McHale really likes the fact thatBeverley brings the highintensity and on-ball defense every night, where as Lin is a little inconsistent with his energy and even looks a little lethargic out there sometimes. Personally I think Beverley compliments Harden better because when Harden is drawing all the defense towards him it's up to whoever is on the weakside to take advantage of that, and as we saw tonight Beverley was doing a much better job of attacking and then finishing with his nifty floater.Lin on the otherhand looked very unsure of himself, he is trying too hard to be unselfish and it did more harm than good tonight.

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    I agree that Lin creates havoc like westbrook does, but Lin is a smarter player and doesn't put up a lot of bad shots. His turnovers can be argued that sometimes he takes chances with his passes. A good example is Beverley who doesn't turn the ball over but rarely creates a lot of his assists through his play. Usually his assists are from good ball movement.

    However Lins ability to keep the dribble alive doesn't fit Mchales philosophy and based on his treatment of Lin when he struggles with turnovers or poor shooting, he gets taken out of the game, even though he would have 6 assists after 1,5 quarters.

    Lin had 3 good games in a row, and then he had one poor game, and he gets taken out of the game early and suddenly Bev gets the minutes. Mchale has no trust in Lin and doesn't seem to like him as a player, this is just based on the past 6 games including the indiana game tonight.

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