Jeremy Lin Must Pass the Ball More For Rockets To Reach 2013 NBA Playoffs
It's a safe bet to say that Jeremy Lin probably won't be averaging 20 points or more per night like he was in the Linsanity days, or at least, not anytime soon before the season ends.
And truth be told, at this point, the Houston Rockets don't need him to do that right now. With James Harden leading the way, the Rockets are tied for first in the NBA in scoring, averaging 107.0 points per night against opponents.
However, aside from their young legs and fast lane-style offense, there is another reason why the Rockets are one of the hardest teams to stop on defense-their passing.
While they are more well known for their scoring, the Rockets are actually tied for fourth in the NBA as of March 7 with the L.A. Clippers and Orlando Magic in assists with 23.5 teams assists per game. Considering that the Clippers have Chris Paul, arguably the best point guard in the NBA, at the helm for them, that's quite the feather in the cap for Lin, who has 6.2 assists on the year.
Lin has made it clear that he's a "team-first" type of point guard by countless interviews that he has done since coming to Houston in free agency over the summer.
His first priority is making sure the team wins, not piling on impressive offensive stats. In the Rockets' system, which is centered around Harden's scoring and the team's ability to outrun its opponents, that attitude has served the Rockets well thus far, with Houston having won 8 of their last 14 games and in control of the seventh seed in the West with a 33-29 record.
Lin's 6.2 assists per game are a big help to the Rockets in that aspect. In fact, during the Rockets 33 wins, Lin has dished out 6.8 assists, rounding out to 223 assists from Lin that have helped the Rockets come out on top.
During losses, however, those numbers change dramatically. In the 29 games the Rockets have lost this season, Lin has only served 5.5 assists or 160 assists in those games.
For a closer example, let's take a look at the highs and lows during the Rockets' 2012-13 season. The Rockets lost 9 out of 17 games in the month of March, including a damaging seven-game losing streak, during which Lin was averaging 5.5 assists. During the losing streak, Lin's dishing numbers fell to a mere 5.0 assists per night.
Compare that to the Rockets' five-game winning streak, the longest of the season for Houston from Dec. 17 to Dec. 26. During that time, Lin's assists numbers were peaking at 7.6 assists per night. If the Rockets could get Lin to dish and find the open man at that level more often, that could mean wonders for their offense, and for their place in the standings.
The fact is, however, they're going to need Lin to get to that point more often in the remaining 20 games left in the Rockets' schedule. Lin may not be able to get 20 points a night every night during those games, but that doesn't mean that he can't make sure that Chandler Parsons, the team's second-best scorer, doesn't get a few more looks. Or that Omer Asik can't get a few feeds from Lin in the post more often. Or that he can't help new teammate and power forward Donatas Motiejunas become a bigger part of the offense.
The great playmakers like Rajon Rondo or the Clippers' Paul are able to get teammates involved consistently, even when they aren't producing points at a frequently high pace. Lin is appearing to be of that mold. He doesn't predominantly score, as he prefers to pass the ball more often than not, though as his history suggests, Lin can become an offensive force when the timing is right and he gets hot. However, those games don't come around often, so for Lin to become a truly elite point guard, he needs to be able to generate more of those second-hand points for his teammates, especially with Houston locked in a playoff battle with Golden State, Utah and the L.A. Lakers.
When Lin is dishing high numbers of assists, the Rockets usually win; it's all in the math. And if he can get those numbers higher in the last 20 games of the season, it could add up to not only the Rockets' first playoff berth in three seasons, but at a pretty good bracket position, as well.