Back in 2009, Jeremy Lin, then a senior guard at Harvard, dropped 30 points and two pretty impressive dunks on an unsuspecting UConn Huskies team that started sophomore Kemba Walker at the point. It was a game that helped give Lin national exposure, and arguably got him a shot on an NBA summer league team. Now, five and half years later, Lin will be Kemba Walker’s backup on the Charlotte Hornets.
At first glance, it’s a solid fit. Mo Williams has “gone home” to Cleveland to re-join the varsity, so the Hornets fill a need at the PG position. Lin can also put Walker off the ball more in small line-ups, which theoretically could help Walker be a more efficient shooter. Walker was one of the more electrifying second tier guards in the NBA last season, but he shot just .385 from the field and .304 from behind the three-point arc.
In limited time, Lin was more efficient offensively, shooting .424 from the field, and a career-high .369 from three, but his assist-to-turnover ratio still isn’t very appealing to the eye: 2.2 topg in 26 mpg compared to Walker’s 1.6 topg in 34 mpg. Neither averaged more than 5.1 assists per game. Lin and Walker aren’t that different, both are ball dominant and like to dribble off picks. Neither is a knock-down shooter from range, but both have a penchant for hitting big shots late in games. Well, at least, Lin did when he had the opportunity, and he could get his share if Charlotte doesn’t add another rotation PG. Neither are defensive stoppers by any stretch of the imagination.
If it’s commonly understood that Lin thrives in a pick and roll-based offense, the Hornets do plenty of on-ball screens, but Lin won’t have a Tyson Chandler or Dwight Howard to throw lobs to. Hornets bigs play under the rim. It’s a team that runs pick-and-pop and lives on Walker’s ability to get to the rim (and the free throw line). Or, that was their m.o. after Al Jefferson went down. Lin won’t take away from that approach, and the addition of shooters Nicolas Batum from Portland and Jeremy Lamb from Oklahoma City should help to spread the floor. Maybe they can resurrect Spencer Hawes, and maybe Frank Kaminksy can fit in somehow; both might be needed Al Jefferson can’t stay healthy.
What might be more intriguing for Lin is that he now gets to play in a smaller market. The spotlight hasn’t always been easy for him. And maybe he can finally settle in, into a city where he won’t face as much public scrutiny, perceived or otherwise, as New York, Houston, and Los Angeles. The Hornets are on no one’s radar yet, but for an Eastern Conference team, this roster isn’t half bad.