After the doomed era of “Billy Ball” that saw them crash to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets are officially ready to move on. The Nets’ new general manager, Sean Marks, has already made some shrewd moves that all point towards a clear rebuilding strategy – forming a young core that will take the slow way to the top. To that end, Marks has gotten rid of the worst contracts on the roster, releasing Andrea Bargnani, Joe Johnson, Jarrett Jack and Thaddeus Young in exchange for miles of cap space and a couple of draft picks. The next step of the plan was finding a star to build around, someone who could run the team’s offense and serve as a draw for bringing the fans back to the games. Enter Jeremy Lin.
On July 7, Jeremy Lin post the signing of the $36 million dollar contract via Snapchat (JLinsta7). The Nets offer: three-year at $36 million dollars, with a player option for the third year and some bonuses, including a trade kicker. At first glance, you could argue that Lin could have easily gotten more money. However, no other teams could match what the Nets also offered – starting position as the point guard with a chance to once again work with Kenny Atkinson, in a city where the legend of Linsanity was born. And since the money wasn’t a priority for Lin, the Nets now have even more cap space to add additional depth to their roster. The team-friendly deal should also help Lin avoid a backlash similar to the one he got after the Knicks decline to match the back end loaded offer from the Rockets back in 2012.
During his 2015-16 season with the Hornets, Lin averaged 11.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 3.0 APG over 26.3 minutes. However, Lin mostly played as the shooting guard whenever he shared the floor with Kemba Walker, which deflated his numbers quite a bit. In his thirteen games as a starter, he averaged 14.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG and an excellent 5.7 APG, and this was a nice litmus test of what we can expect of him in the Nets. Lin is also one of only fifteen NBA players to score at least 20 points, 7 assists and 1 steal in six straight games since 1985, with most of the other players on that list being superstars such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
While Lin has been a starting-caliber player for a long time now, it remains to be seen whether he can lead an NBA offense on a regular basis. The tools seem to be there – in addition to having great handles and a lightning-quick first step which helps him get to the lane, he has made big strides in improving his outside shooting, which was fairly shaky early on in his career. He is also a willing passer and a certified pick-and-roll wizard. His defense is not as bad as advertised, either. While Lin might not be an elite defender, he is good at playing the passing lanes and hustling for steals and rebounds. With him on the floor, the Hornets outscored their opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions last season. Lin is also an excellent shot blocker, having recorded a career-high 42 shots blocked shots for the Hornets in the 2015-16 season. In the last four years, with combined total of 130 blocks, Jeremy Lin is among the best shot blockers ever for his size.
Now let’s take a look at the other half of the Brook-Lin combo. Though he has never been the kind of player who draws the crowds, Brook Lopez is one of the most efficient big men in today’s NBA. Despite his long injury history, he has managed to average 18.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in his eight NBA seasons with the Nets. His arsenal of crafty post moves and his pick-and-roll (and pick-and-pop) productivity has made him into one of the most ferocious players on the offensive end and a match-up nightmare for the opposing big men. While his defensive prowess and rebounding are merely average, he partly makes up for it with sheer size, which helps him move into the roll of a defensive anchor if his team needs it.
When looking at Lopez’s qualities, it becomes pretty obvious why Lin was the first player Sean Marks signed as a general manager of the Nets. The two players are roughly the same age, which gives the Nets a base of stars in their prime who can weather the storm until the younger players are ready to step into the spotlight. Considering his current lack of options, Atkinson is likely to try to exploit the Brook-Lin pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop prowess. And while they don’t have an innate understanding of each other’s game just yet, it shouldn’t take them too long to click. Over the years, Lin has managed to successfully spoon-feed big men such as Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Frank Kaminsky, and none of those players have the refined P’n’R game of Brook Lopez.
If the stories from the Summer League are to be believed, the Nets will probably be focusing on the fast-transition style of play this upcoming season. Provided that really is Atkinson’s plan, Lin should be able to get a feel for the game fairly quickly. Back in the day of Linsanity, he proved he could thrive in such circumstances; however, he would need to pay attention to his other teammates as well, dishing them the ball when the situation calls for it. If the fast breaks don’t work out, the Brook-Lin combo is likely to end up the main plan B, but Lin’s propensity for driving to the rim and drawing fouls should also be a major part of the team’s offense.
Faced with an unenviable task of resurrecting a fallen franchise, Sean Marks seems to have done very well so far. Of course, it can’t be denied he made a slight risk by signing Lin to three years; while Lin’s starting averages show a lot of promise, this is the first time in his career that he has been asked to lead an NBA offense night after night. Since the Nets don’t have full control over their draft picks until 2019, the pressure on the current roster to perform is even higher. Can they finally make a step forward? Only one thing is for sure – Lin has been waiting for this chance for a long time, and he doesn’t seem like the type to throw that away. With all the Nets players signed so far all under 30 years old, it’s going to be a fast and furious game, and I cant’t wait for the season to start.
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