My, how time flies.
It’s been nearly three years since the winter of “Linsanity” in New York, when former D-Leaguer Jeremy Lin burst onto the scene with the New York Knicks and became an international phenomenon with a 10-game stretch in February 2012 during which he averaged almost 25 points and more than nine assists per game while leading the Knicks to seven straight wins and an 8-2 record overall.
The highlight of that stretch was a 38-point explosion in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 10, 2012.
Since then, Lin has signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets, where he was a full-time starter in 2012-13 and a part-time starter in 2013-14, but according to the advanced metrics, was a below-average NBA player.
Lin had a player efficiency rating of 14.9 in 2012-13 and posted a 14.3 last year in Houston, both below the NBA average of 15.
His usage percentages were way down over his magical season in New York, where he had a 28.1 usage percentage, down to 20.8 percent and 20.4 percent, respectively, in the last two seasons.
Apparently, Lin wants more than that after being traded to the Lakers earlier this month.
“I wish my role could become bigger and more important and I also wish I could get more playing time next year,” Lin told fans at a basketball camp in Taiwan. (h/t Want China Times).
There were good things about Lin’s two years in Houston, to be sure. He posted a career-high true shooting percentage of .572 last season and improved his 3-point shooting to a career-best 35.8 percent.
His assists were down, however, from 6.1 assists in 32.2 minutes a game in 2012-13 to 4.1 in 28.9 minutes per game last season as he moved behind Patrick Beverley on the depth chart and came off the bench in 38 of his 71 games.
The dip in assists did not correspond with the dip in minutes—on a per-36 minute bases, Lin’s assists plummeted from 6.8 in 2012-13 to 5.2 in 2013-14.
With the expected return to the Lakers of a healthy Kobe Bryant in 2014-15, what does that leave for Lin in terms of an expanded role?
It’s likely he will start at the point, considering Steve Nash is a broken-down 40-year-old whose minutes will need to be carefully managed by new Lakers coach … wait, never mind.
In his last healthy season, 2012-13, Bryant had a usage rate of 31.9 percent. The next highest rate on the roster was since-departed center Dwight Howard at 22.2.
The highest usage rate any point guard has had for the Lakers playing with Bryant since Shaquille O’Neal was traded away in 2004 is the 20.2 rate of Jordan Farmar during the 2007-08 season.
That is a lower usage rate than Lin had last year in Houston.
Bryant’s usage rate, meanwhile, has never dipped below 31.4 over that span and peaked at 38.7 in 2005-06.
The usage rates of the rotational point guards (qualified for league leader boards in minutes per game) tell a story that translates to Lin not getting his wish for an expanded role:
Lin, who told campers he has been working on improving both his floater and 3-point shot while also working on his defensive skills, may get his wish and play a big role for the Lakers in 2014-15, the last year remaining on the three-year, $25.1 million contract he signed in 2012.
But recent history says otherwise.