Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reality sets in for Jeremy Lin and the Knicks

By Nate Noy

I wrote a majority of the below yesterday BEFORE the Knicks debacle against the Hornets and before Lin tied the single game-high number of turnovers for ANY player in the NBA this entire season. I created the below in preparation for the Great Jeremy Lin Debate that I had with FDH’s Senior Editor Jason Jones, which can be found here.

That loud crashing sound you are about to hear coming out of New York City is not Wall Street’s reaction to the latest Obama economic policy; rather, it is what is about to happen to the New York Knicks and Jeremy Lin the rest of this season.

First let me get this on record: I love the Jeremy Lin story, great kid, he took full advantage of a unique situation, and had a great two-week ride. Heck, he’s on the COVER of USA Today and has been featured by the national nightly news (and up next Time magazine). He energized not only the Knicks and the NBA, but also people from around the world. Great job, nice story, congrats. However, what comes next?

What comes next is this: the Knicks will finish +/- 4 games over or under .500 this year and lose in the first round of the NBA playoffs in no more than 5 games to the Heat or Bulls. By the end of next season Mike D’Antoni will be fired, the Knicks will at best be a 7 or 8 seed (they may even miss the playoffs) and they will be long gone within 5 games of the first round of the playoffs. It is also likely that either Lin or Melo will also be gone from the team by then.
Jeremy Lin “may” be able to stick in the NBA for a few seasons as a backup PG, but in no way, shape, or form will he EVER be a long-term “star” in the NBA. I don’t care that he is Asian-American, or a Harvard grad; in fact, the truth is that because he is a popular Asian-American, he will likely be able to stick in the NBA far longer than he would otherwise. His international popularity will buy him far more time in the NBA than his talent or performance warrants. In my mind, in terms of talent, he is a poor man’s JJ Barea at best.

I’m NOT a “hater," the above is plain and simple reality, and the early numbers on Jeremy Lin prove it. The coming months in New York will be very interesting to observe, and the person I feel the most for is Carmelo Anthony, he is coming into a proverbial “no-win” situation that he cannot even begin to imagine.

In this case the numbers tell the story, and numbers don’t lie. First, how impressive is the Knicks' 7-0 run with Lin getting significant minutes? The story no one else is currently telling you is that this run is not all that impressive. During this streak, the Knicks are 6-0 against teams that currently do not have a winning record. Their one victory against a winning team was versus the Lakers, who are 5-10 on the road this year and were coming off an overtime road win the night before while the Knicks had rest. Before Jeremy Lin, the Knicks were 8-15, which breaks down to 2-9 against winning teams and 6-6 against teams that currently do not have a record above .500. With or without Jeremy Lin, the Knicks should have won a majority of the last seven games, but they have not faced the real test of their schedule, which is coming in the near future. Statistically, the Knicks are not much better with Lin than without, and the 2-9 mark against good teams is something that I do not expect to change much the rest of the way.

As the schedule evens out the Knicks WILL lose, I project a minimum of 16 more losses this season.

I have two major issues with Lin’s game: (1) his ball handling, and (2) he is a defensive liability. There is a reason that no other player in NBA history managed to have 36 turnovers in his first 6 career starts (a 6.0 average); that reason is that anyone else committing so many turnovers goes directly to the end of the bench. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.58 is horrendous (that ratio is now 1.38 after the Hornets game).

Turnovers are no big deal, you say? Case in point: the Knicks lost to a previous 6-win Hornets team last night with Lin having NINE turnovers. Do this against the Heat, Bulls, or even the Celtics, 76ers, Magic, or Hawks, and you are BEAT, plain and simple.

The defensive liability is best illustrated by comparing the statistics for the season with the individual games against Lin and the Knicks that the six opposing PG’s had in his first six starts.

The opposing PGs went 40-80 from the field for a cool 50% shooting percentage; they also scored 100 points. The season average for these six players is 24.8 FGM and 59.9 FGA a game. That’s an increase of 20.1 shots attempted over the six games and an amazing 15.2 additional FGM over the six games, or a whopping 61.3% increase in FGM from season average to games against Lin. The group also averaged 70.2 ppg for the season, but they put up 100 points against Lin. So the opposing PGs average 5 extra points and 2.5 extra FGM against Lin than they do otherwise. Not to mention in these six games, the opposing starting PGs committed 12 turnovers to Lin’s 36, a 3-to-1 ratio.

I really do wish Jeremy Lin the best, but the reality is that he is a lot closer to a JJ Barea than a Chris Paul or Derrick Rose. He can contribute, but NOT even close to the level that the media has hyped him to. And in the end, Mike D’Antoni will pay the price for expectations that are simply unattainable for someone of Lin’s talent level.

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