Numbers Game: Rockets land Jeremy Lin

Scott Cullen

7/18/2012 1:03:47 AM

The Houston Rockets made a big offer for a free agent point guard, big enough that the New York Knicks let a potential rising star move on.

Numbers Game looks at the Rockets' signing of Jeremy Lin.

The Rockets Get: PG Jeremy Lin.

Lin, 23, burst onto the scene with the Knicks last season, going from seldom-used reserve to star point guard. In 25 games as a starter last season, Lin averaged 18.2 points, 7.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, shooting 44.5% from the field.

Admittedly, those numbers were generated over a small sample, but Lin's career to this point is a small sample and those thresholds (18-7-3-2) aren't easily achieved. Over the last 10 years, there are only four players (Shawn Marion three times, LeBron James, Caron Butler and Gerald Wallace) that have put up those numbers over an entire season.

While there are no assurances that Lin will be able to carry those numbers over a full season, he should have a tremendous opportunity to produce in Houston, a team that doesn't have a lot of options. There are no proven bigs that can score for the Rockets, so that could pose problems for Lin, but that also should assure that he'll have no shortage of touches in the offence.

Lin returns to Houston (where he was on the roster for two weeks before getting waived last December) to replace Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, the Rockets' point guards last season. Lowry was traded to the Toronto Raptors and Dragic signed with the Phoenix Suns.

After their other offseason moves (largely about clearing space in a longshot effort to land Dwight Howard), the Rockets have one returning player, shooting guard Kevin Martin, that had more than nine field goal attempts per game last season. Lin averaged 13.8 field goal attempts per game as a starter with the Knicks, more than any Rockets last season, so it's not unreasonable to expect Lin to have a major role in the Rockets' attack.

At the same time, Lin has areas in which he can improve. His turnover rate (4.7 per game as a starter) is far too high -- the Nets' Deron Williams had the leagues' highest per-game turnover rate last season at 4.0 per game.

Furthermore, despite strong steal numbers, Lin can be taken advantage of on the defensive end. While that can improve as he matures as an NBA player, the turnovers and defensive shortcomings are prime areas to be exploited by opponents who aren't going to be surprised by the underdog any longer. Add to the mix that Lin is coming off knee surgery and it's fair to at least question whether he's going to reach his full potential.

Signed to a three year, $25.1-million contract, Lin has parlayed his brief shining star performance into a big-money payday, one that the Knicks weren't willing to match, even though they had that option available to them.

Instead of keeping a potentially overpriced Lin, the Knicks have decided to turn their point guard duties over to 39-year-old Jason Kidd and 28-year-old Raymond Felton, who had the most productive stint of his career in 54 games with the Knicks in 2010-2011, but struggled in Portland last season.

It is a controversial decision, no doubt, so the Knicks are going to need a long-term strategy to address the point guard position. Maybe Chris Paul -- going into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers -- is the eventual solution for the Knicks and, while that is a risky strategy, it might ultimately be that best way to make fans forget about the 23-year-old point guard full of potential that they just let leave town.

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