For the second straight year, Jeremy Lin finds himself seeking a new contract. After playing one season with the Charlotte Hornets, Lin declined his $2.2 million player option, choosing instead to test the waters of free agency.
Coming off his best season in a few years, Lin finds himself in a much better position than last year, when he was without a deal. The point guard took a two-year, $4,374,255 contract with Charlotte in the summer of 2015, after mixed results with the Los Angeles Lakers. But he played a crucial role off the bench for the 48-win Hornets this past season, and he should get a raise for the 2016-17 season.
Lin averaged 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 26.3 minutes per game with Charlotte. His numbers were roughly the same in Los Angeles, though he proved himself in his role as a sixth man, and the league's increasing salary cap should mean a sizable raise. The cap is expected to jump from $70 million to $94 million, offering a prime opportunity for NBA free agents of every talent level.
Point guard might be the deepest position in all of basketball, but the top players are all under contract. Mike Conley is the best free-agent option available, and there’s talk that the Memphis Grizzlies star could get a max contract worth $26.4 million per season. Aside from Conley and the Sacramento Kings' Rajon Rondo, Lin might be the best point guard on the market.
Lin is expected to maintain his sixth-man status, but that likely won't affect contract negotiations. Multiple teams may have interest in a player with Lin's assets: a good outside shot, at least three years of experience and solid court vision.
After earning less than $1 million in each of his first two seasons, the Houston Rockets gave Lin a three-year deal worth $25 million in 2012. Lin was proven to be overpaid, but with salaries set to dramatically surge, Lin can once again receive a lucrative contract. Last year, Lou Williams, who had just won the Sixth Man of the Year, signed a three-year deal with the Lakers worth $21 million, and it's possible Lin receives a similar deal.
It’s unknown what teams would be willing to give Lin such a contract, though a few stand out as possible destinations. Lin was a great fit with the Hornets, backing up Kemba Walker and often playing beside him in the backcourt, and he could still return to Charlotte.
"If you asked me would I be interested in coming back, there's no question in my mind — it's a resounding yes," Lin told reporters. "I would be very interested in coming back."
If he does leave Charlotte, Lin could go back to Houston, where he played in 2013 and 2014. Houston traded Lin to the Lakers two years ago, but new Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni might be open to a reunion with the point guard that he coached with the New York Knicks, according to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher.
Lin played the best basketball of his career under D’Antoni. Bursting onto the scene with New York in what was dubbed “Linsanity,” Lin performed like an all-star when he was finally given playing time, averaging 20.9 points, 8.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game in February 2012.