The Knicks think Jeremy Lin is a fraud. To be clear, there’s no hard evidence of this, and we have no insight into the minds of NY’s top brass.
It’s totally a theory based on circumstantial observation.
But if you run down the list of possible reasons to let Lin leave for Houston, you only reach one explanation that makes logical sense: the Knicks think he was a flash in the pan.
Let’s take a closer look at the possible reasons to let Lin walk:
1. They can’t keep him under the salary cap. Not true, the Knicks won his “early Bird rights” earlier this summer in an appeal with the NBA. That means they can sign him regardless of how high it pushes them over the salary cap.
2. Signing him would put them so far over the luxury tax limit that they’d have to pay millions upon millions in penalties. There looks to be a bit of merit to this. Lin’s salary spikes to $14.8 million in 2014-15, which would make the Knicks’ payroll in the ~$87 million range. That would translate to a brutal ~$35 million luxury tax bill.
They could trade Lin. Or they could cut him in the summer of 2014 and use the CBA’s “stretch provision” so that his salary only counts as $5 million against the salary cap for three-straight years. That way, they’d get two full seasons of Lin, then cut him in a way that completely avoids the luxury tax doomsday scenario.
3. They won’t be able to move his contract because it’s so big. Not true. Even though Lin makes $14.8 million in 2014-15, that’s actually a good thing because it will be an expiring contract. Expiring contracts are insanely valuable in the NBA because they help facilitate all sorts of otherwise complicated trades.
In short, the Knicks will be able to trade Lin before the 2014-15 season. They might not get a lot for him, but they’ll definitely be able to move him.
4. He doesn’t make enough money off the court to justify the inflated salary number. On this front, we turn to Nate Silver, who wrote a lengthy article yesterday about exactly why it makes good business sense to match Lin.
Silver writes: “Even if Lin is a merely good player, the marketing boost he provides should more than justify the expense. Lin is already a superstar based on his jersey sales, and the level of fan interest that he generates.”
In February, Forbes estimated that Lin is worth $25-50 million a year off the court. MSG’s stock dipped yesterday when rumours of Lin’s departure leaked. And MSG, more generally, has seen its market cap grow by $600 million since Linsanity began.
The $25 million (plus luxury tax penalties) that the Knicks would have to spend on Lin is steep, but it doesn’t come close to his value off the court.
5. Raymond Felton is better. No.
The numbers don’t bear that out. Felton had a 13.46 PER last year (which is bad) with 11.4 points per game last year. For comparison, Lin had a 19.97 PER (LeBron was the best with a 30.08).
Lin had vastly better numbers last year. Even if he regresses from his peak performance during Linsanity, he’ll be better than what Felton has been since early 2011.
Furthermore, the main argument in favour of Felton over Lin is that Felton played great with the Knicks before he got traded for Carmelo Anthony.
But that’s based on the first 35 games on Felton’s 2010 season, when he averaged 18 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds per game while shooting 36% from three-point range. In his 18 games with the Knicks after that, he fell to 14 points, 9 assists, and 3 rebounds while shooting 27% per cent. And he’s been even worse than that since then.
You can’t discount Lin’s great 2012 play due to a small sample size while also saying Felton is better because of those 35 games in 2010.
Lin is young and on the rise while Felton is older and on the decline.
No, Ray Felton is not better than Jeremy Lin.
6. His injury is more severe than it sounds. There’s no way to tell if this is true, and we’ve heard absolutely zero rumblings that there’s something more wrong with Lin’s knee.
He partially tore his meniscus last year, and while it kept him out for a few weeks, it’s not the sort of catastrophic knee injury that can derail a career if you treat it properly.
Is it possible that the Knicks know something we don’t? Sure. But you’d think we’d hear something about it if Lin suffered a setback.
So once you go through and cross all of these possible explanations off the list, you’re left with this: the Knicks must think Lin is going to crash and burn.
If Lin turns out to be a fraud (as in, he is so bad that he reverts to his D-League form), it makes sense not to re-sign him. A terrible Lin won’t be a valuable marketing piece, his massive $14.8 million deal in 2014-15 would be dead money, and even the $5 million he’s making in the next two seasons would be too much.
That’s the only stance that makes it logical to let Lin leave.
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