Through the first 13 games, Harden and Lin have seen their ups and downs. Harden is averaging 25.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, but he’s beginning to feel the pressure of carrying the offense and it’s causing some inconsistency.
Lin is averaging 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists and is becoming more comfortable as a facilitator instead of a scoring point guard. He’s building chemistry with not only Harden, but with Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik.
That chemistry among all of the Rockets is important because it takes the onus off of Harden to produce every single possession.
At their best, the Rockets are an exciting offensive juggernaut that can put up points in a hurry. They defeated the New York Knicks 131-103 with a lightning-quick pace that enabled them to get 23 fast break points en route to shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
At their worst, the Rockets are too dependent on Harden and run a stagnant half court offense that features throwing the ball to Harden and getting out of the way. Their 102-91 loss to the Utah Jazz was a perfect example of what happens when they rely too much on Harden.
In the game, Harden started slow due to illness and the team fell behind by 17 at the half. They didn’t have good ball movement throughout the game and shot just 34.9 percent from the field. This wasn’t the time for Lin to take over offensively, but instead it was the time where he needed to get others involved.
Focusing on the upcoming game against the Thunder, it’s going to be important for Lin and Harden to assume their main roles of facilitator and scorer, with one major caveat. They need to understand the value of keeping others involved.
Harden can still be the leader on the offensive end, but it’s the mere threat of others that will open up the lane and make his life easier. It’s Lin’s job to set up the offense and put those players in that position.
This would be a great spot for a veteran point guard to use their leadership qualities to bring the team together, but Lin is a smart man and will assume that role on his own.
More specifically, the beginning of the game shouldn’t feature Harden, even though emotions will be running high and he’ll want to get out to a quick start. Instead, they should focus on the offense and get the best shots available.
If that means running the pick-and-roll with the intent of creating open shots on the wing for Parsons or getting Asik rolling to the basket, so be it. A few consecutive trips of open shots by someone other than Harden will get the defense to respect the Rockets as a team.
It’s similar to the NFL, where a predominantly passing team starts out a drive by pounding the defense with runs. The defense could choose to ignore those runs (ignore Parsons), but they’ll just give up big play after big play (open shots) and will ultimately find themselves in trouble.
Lin may be just 24 years old, but he’s growing quickly as a player and a leader. There’s always room for improvement, but he’s doing an admirable job bringing this young Rockets team together. If the Rockets upset the Thunder to secure Harden’s revenge on Wednesday night, it will be a direct result of Lin and his leadership on the court.
Thanks for visiting HoopsHabit.com! We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below!
HoopsHabit’s Regular Column Schedule:
Monday – NBA Awards Watch
Wednesday – NBA Power Rankings
Friday – NBA Stat Central
Sunday – Your NBA Fix Podcast