COMMENTARY | In the preseason, numbers are useless.
Saying that someone averaged 14 points and five assists and using those numbers to compare that player to someone else is just silly at this time of the year.
Seeing is believing in the preseason, and according to what I saw, it looks like Kevin McHale would be foolish to start Jeremy Lin over Patrick Beverley. Beverley started over Lin on Thursday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Now, I'm not hating on Lin (I constantly find myself saying that), although I've become somewhat notorious for my criticism of the $25-million man. I'll be the first one to say that Lin has looked improved this offseason, but you could say the exact same thing about the defensive-minded Beverley.
Offensively, while playing with the starters, Beverley is equally effective as Lin. When they're playing alongside the likes of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons (and hopefully Terrence Jones), they don't need to be a driving force offensively; they just need to spread the floor (by sliding the arc) and make quick decisions.
Lin is still a slightly indecisive shooter, and his trigger is very slow in catch-and-shoot situations. On the other hand, Beverley is better at quickly adjusting his feet, and then catching and shooting in a hurry. Last season, defenders oftentimes played off of Lin, sagging deep into the lane as Lin drifted toward the corner, which led to Harden becoming less effective in the pick-and-roll because of a lack of space in the middle of the court.
Defensively, it's not even a contest between the two point guards. Beverley is one of the league's top on-ball defenders, and his scrappiness creates momentum shifts similar to a Serge Ibaka block that goes into the fourth row. Lin, on the other hand, has trouble staying in front of quick guards (by my last calculation, most guards are quick), and has even more trouble fighting through pick-and-rolls. Beverley, who is thinner than Lin, isn't exactly fantastic at thwarting a good screen, but he has the quickness to recover without being burned.
Lin showed up to training camp looking thicker and more aggressive, and there's no doubt that he is still a much better scorer than Beverley. However, his scoring ability is just another reason for him to come off the bench. Remember how Harden would take over games for the Oklahoma City Thunder when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were taking a blow? That's what Lin could do for the Rockets, and I believe he would excel in that role.
Against second-string point guards, surrounded by shooters like Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi, with backup big men manning the paint, Lin could mimic what Harden does with the first unit with the second unit. Lin could use his craftiness to get into the lane, creating shots for himself and for teammates, while serving as the driving force of an uptempo, second-unit offense.
In the preseason, we've seen Lin play alongside Beverley at times, which will generate more minutes for both young point guards.There are 96 minutes to dish out to the backcourt, and Harden will command 35-40 minutes a night, which means that Lin and Beverley could both play north of 25 minutes a game without cutting into anyone else's minutes.
When it comes to the ends of games, Kevin McHale will have to play it by ear. Point guard is the deepest position in the NBA right now, and several of the league's elite point guards are playing on top-flight Western Conference squads. Houston is part of a six-team pack that leads the Western Conference, which means that Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Tony Parker (Spurs), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), and Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies) are Lin and Beverley's direct competition.
The question remains, in the final two minutes of a tight game against an elite point guard like CP3 or Parker, who should run point for Houston? Would you put in an offense-first point guard who has trouble with on-ball defense and spot-up shooting, or would you elect to go with an elite defender whose best offensive showing came in last year's postseason?
As of right now, I'm taking option No. 2, but if I see Lin leading the Rockets on a 13-4 run early in the second quarter (with Harden on the bench), I might change my tune.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and the writer of The Daily Fix on Hoopshabit.com. He spends most of his time watching basketball, writing, and listening to Bob Dylan.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jeremy Lin
- Patrick Beverley