Why The Rockets Benched Jeremy Lin A Year After Giving Him $US25 Million

Jeremy Lin has lost the starting point guard job for the Houston Rockets, according to
teammate Chandler Parsons.

Patrick Beverley will start in his place, and Lin will come off the bench 15 months after signing a three-year, $US25 million deal.

This isn’t exactly an indictment of Lin’s game. While he didn’t live up to that big contract last year, his numbers in points, assists, shooting percentage, and turnovers didn’t fall off that much from his unreal year in New York.

He’s not a lost cause, as some people are making him out to be.

He’s just a bad fit for this specific Rockets lineup, for two reasons:

1) Lin’s skillset is redundant with James Harden’s skillset.

2) Houston’s starting lineup needs defence and three-point shooting, which aren’t Lin’s strengths.

James Harden is a ball-dominant scoring guard. He’s a solid three-point shooter and one of the most lethal penetrating guards in the league. He puts up gaudy numbers, but needs the ball in his hands to do his thing (he was 9th in the league in usage rate last year).

Lin is a similar type of player. He’s great off the dribble and he’s a decent enough shooter to create driving lanes. But he also needs the ball in his hands to maximise his strengths.

He’s basically a worse version of Harden (which isn’t as bad as it sounds considering Harden’s one of the best players in the league).

Last year, their offensive numbers both got significantly better when the other guy was on the bench (via NBA.com’s stats tool):

Only 16% of Lin’s minutes came with Harden on the bench last year, despite the fact that his stats were way, way better without Harden.

That should change with Lin coming off the bench in 2013-14, and both players will benefit.

The other big reason Beverley is starting: defence and three-point shooting.

Houston was a phenomenal offensive team in 2012-13 (6th in the league in points per 100 possessions), and an average defensive team (16th in the league in points per 100 possessions allowed).

The offensive is already at an elite level. They need to improve on the other end.

That’s where Beverely comes in.

It’s a limited sample size since he only played in 41 games, but last year Houston’s offensive efficiency stayed exactly the same with and without Beverley (111.0), but their defensive efficiency improved by ~5 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.

The chart from 82games.com:

Since James Harden doesn’t play any defence, much of Houston’s defensive responsibilities on the perimeter fall to whoever is the second guard.

Beverley’s a better defender than Lin, so it makes sense to play him alongside the defence-adverse Harden.

In addition, Beverley is a better, more reliable three-point shooter. He shoots 37.5% to Lin’s 33.9%. With Harden collapsing the defence off the dribble and Dwight Howard commanding double-teams in the post, there are going to be a ton of open threes for this unit. Beverley can knock them down better than Lin can.

There’s a degree of indignity to Houston benching Lin like this. But when you dig into the reasons why it’s not necessarily as bad for Lin as it looks.

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