Jeremy Lin could help the Houston Rockets by solidifying himself as the No.2 scoring option after James Harden. (Photo : Reuters)
Even with a much-need win against a tough Brooklyn Nets squad on Saturday and three wins in a row, all isn't quite right for the Houston Rockets.
And it has to do with their top star, James Harden, and his apparent shooting struggles.
Over his last eight games, Harden has shot 51-for-142 from field goal range--that's a meager 35.9 percent from the field. While Harden has still averaged 23.8 points during that time, those shooting figures aren't good for that stretch of time, especially for the star of the team.
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The real problem, however, isn't so much Harden's shooting as it is the lack of a secondary option on offense to pick up the slack alongside Harden.
The Rockets still have one of the league's most potent offenses, ranked second in NBA scoring with 104.9 points a night. But, as most teams with a dynamic superstar on the floor have had the tendency to do, they have seemed content to let Harden play "hero ball," where the other scorers seem to stand around and let their star do most of the work.
Ultimately, that formula simply isn't going to be successful in the long run. The team needs to be in a constant state of scoring and ball movement, true, but more importantly, when Harden's shots aren't falling, the Rockets need someone to step up and fill the gap, continuing the flow on offense.
At this point, Jeremy Lin must step up and be that man.
While Lin hasn't exactly been having a 2011-12'ish type season, over the last five games, his shooting has seen an improvement.
At one point, Lin was shooting for just above 30 percent when the season was a few weeks old. That field goal percentage has since improved to 42.8 percent for the season, while he has made 45.9 percent of his field goals during the last five games since Jan. 21. The shooting has been improving to the point where he can be considered as a viable second option on offense to help Harden out when he's hot or keep the team in the game when he's not.
Against the Jazz on Monday, Lin went a perfect 5-for-5 with 12 points. He hasn't scored well over the last few games, but he's been showing the tenacity on his shooting as of late to be considered as another scoring threat.
A key thing Lin hasn't been doing which he could do well to do more of is to drive more into the lane and draw those foul shots. For free throws in the last five games, Lin is shooting 87 percent from the line. However, he's only getting there about 3.2 times per game.
Consistency has also been Lin's main problem on offense this season, his points going up one game and going down the next. Part of the reason is simple-he's not taking enough shots. In the last five games alone, he's only taken 7.4 shots during that stretch, down from his 9.9 shot attempts for this month. He's been much more consistent in the last three games, where he has shot 52 percent from the floor.
But aside from the numbers, it's about the options. Chandler Parsons is getting better gradually, but he's not at the point yet where he can be a solid No.2 scoring option yet. Patrick Patterson is still working his way back from his previous foot injury. Omer Asik isn't a true offensive threat, he's a rebounder and shot-blocker. And while Carlos Delfino has been doing a tremendous job off the bench, the Rockets need someone else from their starting five to take the bull by the proverbial horns and become the team's Option B on offense.
Lin was seen as a viable scorer when the Rockets paid him his three-year, $25 million contract to head West from New York during the offseason. He has shown during this season and the last one that when he gets on a roll, he can carry the game. Does he need to be that guy again? Not necessarily. But he does need to become more aggressive on offense. He has the skills to be a great offensive option. For the Rockets to keep competitive in the West, he's going to need to use them.