COMMENTARY | I have been very clear about my opinion on Jeremy Lin: He's not a starting point guard on a championship-caliber team.
However, I do believe Lin and Asik could be extremely valuable coming off the bench. Lin would be a tremendous sixth man, playing a role similar to the one that Jerryd Bayless played for the Memphis Grizzlies last year. Lin could be the backbone of the second unit, attacking the basket against backup point guards -- which would also help mask his defensive issues.
Meanwhile, Asik could back up Howard and provide the Rockets' second unit with a defensive-minded center and a top-notch rebounder. Asik was a big part of Houston's success last season, as his grit, rebounding, post defense, bloody noses, and reaction to every foul called on him made him a fan-favorite.
With Lin and Asik coming off the bench, Houston would have one of the better benches in the game. If Houston were to start Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and Howard, that would leave Lin as the backup point guard (with Isaiah Canaan likely in the D-League and Aaron Brooks at the end of the bench), Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, and Ronnie Brewer as backup wings (although Brewer could play some 4 in certain situations), and Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and Marcus Camby as the backup bigs.
Houston is going to have to experiment with a lot of different players at power forward and point guard, as Kevin McHale will need the beginning of the season to figure out which combinations will work best. With Beverley starting, Houston will have an upper-echelon defensive point guard who can serve as a floor-spacer with his spot-up shooting ability, and a spark plug with his offensive-rebounding prowess (his offensive rebound rate was 7.2%, an incredibly high number for a point guard).
At power forward, Jones would be a good fit next to Howard, as he possesses a diverse skill set with legitimate size at power forward, quickness, slashing ability, shot-blocking, and an improved outside shot (which he displayed in the Orlando Summer League). However, Donatas Motiejunas could also fit as a starter, as the young European big can shoot from outside and showed a lot of potential last season, although he struggled with mental mistakes at times.
Jeremy Lin's best game last season came on December 10 against the San Antonio Spurs, with Harden out of the lineup with an injury. Lin scored 38 points (which was nine points higher than his next best scoring game last season), dished out seven assists, and turned the ball over only twice. The Spurs ended up winning the game in overtime, but Lin was absolutely spectacular, as he made several big shots to keep the Rockets in it down the stretch. If he comes off the bench, he can play with the same aggression he displayed last season in that game against the Spurs -- which would lead to an increase in confidence, something he often lacked last season.
The Asik situation is a little different than Lin's, as the Turkish bruiser was displeased that the Rockets signed Howard. Although Asik was fun to watch last season, he is a below-average offensive player (to put it kindly). He doesn't score consistently out of the post, he can't shoot outside of 10 feet, he struggles to dunk the ball except when he's wide open (which drove Clyde Drexler insane last year), and he is a poor free-throw shooter. Playing 15 minutes a game most likely won't be enough to keep Asik happy, which could make this situation ugly, but the option to trade the big man is still a distinct -- and probably inevitable -- possibility.
It's very possible that both Lin and Asik are in the starting lineup in the season opener against the Charlotte Bobcats, but I expect Houston to do a lot of shuffling with its lineup this season. As the season goes on, head coach Kevin McHale will shuffle players in and out of the rotation, much like he did last year, and it's likely that general manager Daryl Morey continues to work on improving the roster as well. If Lin and Asik stay in Houston for the entire season, there's no doubt in my mind that they'll be more valuable coming off the bench than in the starting lineup.
October 30 can't come soon enough.
M. De Moor is an NBA junkie and a general columnist on Hoopshabit.com. He has followed the Rockets from the championship days of Hakeem Olajuwon, to the years of Francis and Mobley, to the McGrady and Yao era, and will continue to follow them through Harden and Dwight's reign of destruction.
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- Jeremy Lin
- Omer Asik
- Dwight Howard