The addition of Howard transforms Houston's once-thin frontcourt into a force to be reckoned with overnight. Houston also has ensured that their wing positions are covered, as Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey swiftly brought back Francisco Garcia, while also bringing in Omri Casspi, to provide depth behind James Harden and Chandler Parsons.
When it comes to point guard, though, the team still has some work to do.
Last year, Jeremy Lin started at point for Houston. One of the media's biggest misconceptions (mainly due to the Rockets' surprising success) is that Lin had a successful first year in red and white. The confusion stems from the ripple effect of Linsanity and the seemingly serviceable numbers that Lin put up last season; the former will undo itself given time, and the latter needs to be taken with an anthill of salt.
Lin averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game last season. Among the 14 prospective Western Conference starting point guards for next season (not counting Utah due to rookie Trey Burke being the likely starter), Lin ranked 11th in scoring and 13th in assists last season. Only the aging and injury-riddled Steve Nash, pass-first distributor Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio averaged less points per game than Lin. Meanwhile, only Memphis' Mike Conley averaged less assists a game than Lin, and he played on a Memphis team that was 27th in scoring and first in defense.
Last season, the Rockets led the NBA in possessions per game, while finishing second in the league in scoring (by one tenth of a point). Lin played next to the game's best two-guard last year (yeah, I said it Laker fans), and also played in a system that allowed him to push the ball every chance he got; a system that helped catered to his needs and mask his deficiencies. If you put together Harden's offensive superstardom, Asik's defensive rebounding prowess, Parsons' ability to shoot the three with accuracy, and the perimeter oriented skills of the rest of rotation, that should spell a monster statistical season for Lin, right?
The fact that Lin ranked so low in both scoring and assists among the competition is a gigantic red flag. If you couple that with Lin's propensity for turning the ball over (2.9 turnovers per game) and his inability to shoot consistently from three-point land (less than 34% last season), it's a pretty obvious sign this guy isn't a championship-caliber point guard.
If his lack of statistical prowess wasn't enough for you, Lin failing the eye test over and over again might be. First, it was Damian Lillard scoring at will in the clutch over Lin in two early-season overtime losses for the Rockets. Then, it was the game against Memphis when Lin couldn't get past the three-point lin without Jerryd Bayless picking his pocket. Even in Houston's first three games against the lowly New Orleans Hornets, Lin was dominated by Greivis Vasquez, who outscored the Rockets' point guard 56 to 22 and out-assisted him 34-16. The list goes on and on, but the playoff series against Oklahoma City was Lin's worst showing. In four games, a gimpy Lin tallied just 16 points and eight assists, while committing eight turnovers and getting tortured defensively by both Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson. While Lin sat on the pine, Patrick Beverley provided the energy, on-ball defense, composure and outside shooting that the Rockets lacked too often during the regular season.
The bottom line is this: Lin's a streaky, volume shooter, who gets beat off the dribble repeatedly, is a turnover machine, and lacks the kind of handle that the league's best point guards possess. His best asset is his ability to get into the lane, but he did that so sporadically last year that he can't be depended on to consistently score or create scoring opportunities for others. With Howard in town, Lin's inability to defend on the perimeter, shoot the spot-up three and weave in and out of the lane with the ball still bouncing, are going to be amplified. On the flip side, Beverley's biggest strength-his pesky on-ball pressure- will be even more effective with Howard defending the lane.
Luckily, there's a silver lining in all of this: Lin still has some value. He would be a great backup, especially for a team that is lacking a slasher off the bench. He'd also be a great way for a team like Orlando to get fans in the stands, while they rebuild their franchise and seek out a long-term solution at point guard.
Houston will be an entirely different team this season with Dwight Howard in the middle and all the young studs a year older. A talented crew like the Rockets, and more specifically a superstar like James Harden, need a floor general who will highlight their attributes and bring them back into the championship mix. Although Jeremy Lin is a fine player with some definite offensive talents, he doesn't possess the skill-set necessary to guide this promising squad back into title contention.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and a graduate of Montclair State University. He has followed the Rockets from the championship days of Hakeem Olajuwon, to the of Francis and Mobley years, to the McGrady and Yao era, and will continue to follow them through Harden and Dwight's reign of destruction.
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