Jeremy Lin might be done in New York after sustaining a knee injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.Lin’s contract is up this summer, and his free agency status is more than a little bit confusing.
Grantland’s Jay Caspian Kang broke down Lin’s status in a must-read article today.
The gory details: Lin is a restricted free agent, meaning the Knicks can match any offer that another team makes him. He also has just two years of NBA experience, meaning teams can only offer him $5 million per season for the first two years of any contract.
The short conclusion: A team could only jump in and sign Lin if they offer him a pricey, back-loaded contract of at least four years.
So whether a team rolls the dice and blows the Knicks out of the water comes down to one obvious question: Is he this good?
We all know about Lin’s prowess has a brand-enhancing money machine. The internet if filled with evidence that Lin has made the Knicks oodles and oodles of cash via jersey sales, TV ratings, and the much-coveted “foothold in the international market.”
But people forget that Lin’s marketability isn’t some constant trait of his. His value as a marketing tool is a function of his on-court success. The inherent meritocracy of sports also extends to the business side. If he plays like he did during his magical run in February, he’ll be Yao Ming from an overseas marketing standpoint. If he regresses, he’ll be Yi Jianlian.
So despite all the talk that a team could sign him because he’d make them money, we come back to the same question: Is he this good?
Based on his stats as a starter, he’s a top-10 point guard, according to the NYT’s Howard Beck.
But you could poke all sorts of holes in these numbers and argue that he shouldn’t make anywhere close to the money that Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, or even Kyle Lowery make:
- The sample size is small. The fact is we’ve seen guys go on these types of runs before, only the flame out. The way Lin has played makes the likelihood of him completely falling apart small, but handing out a monster deal based on 35 games is risky.
- The majority of his success came in Mike D’Antoni’s goofy, point-guard friendly system. Lin has only played a few games under Mike Woodson, and his numbers have taken a slight dip. On a team that doesn’t run a ton of pick and roll and doesn’t want the point guard to dominate the ball, we don’t know how he’d fair.
- We don’t know how healthy his knee is. It’s too early to say that Lin is injury prone. But he suffered a torn meniscus only two months into his career. In addition, he plays with such reckless abandon that he’s more susceptible to injuries than other players.
Lin’s free agency situation is both super complicated and super simple.
It’s complicated because of all the various unknowns associated with Lin’s game and his value as a marketing tool. But it’s simple too because despite his marketability, whether or not someone will poach him from the Knicks comes down to the same question teams ask of every free agent: How good is he?
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