After a disappointing one-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers, free agent-to-be Jeremy Lin enters the offseason likely seeking a new contract and a backup role on an NBA roster. The 26-year-old former Knick and Rocket averaged a solid 11.2 points and 4.6 assists on 42.4 percent shooting from the floor, but he lost his starting spot after only 19 games.
Unfortunately for Lin, he played for a Laker squad that went 21-61 for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. He also faced criticism from superstar shooting guard Kobe Bryant early in the season and the ire of head coach Byron Scott for his play on defense, both of which serve as hints Lin is highly unlikely to re-sign with L.A. this summer.
After the Lakers season concluded, Lin told reporters L.A. was an “option for me to consider,” but also stressed he’s trying to find the best situation.
“I want to find a good place and hopefully the best place I can fit in at,” Lin said. “I want to be able to find a good fit for me.”
Landing with the right team will entail two things for Lin. He is expected to take a major pay cut from his bloated salary. Also, Lin may have to come to grips with the possibility of coming off the bench once and a while, if not often. Lin made $8.3 million each of the last three seasons after signing a restricted $25 million tender offer from Houston that ended his sensational run with the New York Knicks in 2012.
But with his play curtailing since then, teams won’t be offering Lin nearly as much. Lin’s also hitting the open market at the same time as such top point guards as Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic, and Aaron Brooks, all projected free agents who stand to eat up a lot of space teams could use for Lin.
Instead, one strategy for Lin might be signing with a contender and gradually winning over his next head coach for the starting job much like he did in New York.
Several teams will be in need of point guards this summer, especially those unwilling to pay their own unrestricted free agents. There’s the Detroit Pistons who face a difficult situation with Brandon Jennings, the Denver Nuggets who could lose Jameer Nelson as Ty Lawson’s backup if he opts-out, the Charlotte Hornets could let Mo Williams walk, and the Brooklyn Nets might watch Deron Williams exercise his opt-out clause.
Many of those teams could fill their prospective need at point guard in the draft, which would hurt Lin’s opportunities on the open market. Top prospects like Emmanuel Mudiay, Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, and Duke’s Tyus Jones could all go in the first-round. Mudiay may have the potential to start immediately next season, while Grant and Jones are expected to start the upcoming season as reserves.
As for what Lin might garner on the open market, a look back at last year’s point guard market shows anywhere from the $3 million to $7 million range over two or three years as reasonable. The Orlando Magic gave Luke Ridnour $5.5 million over two years, Brian Roberts got the same amount and years from Charlotte, Williams signed a one-year deal worth $3.75 million deal with Minnesota, and the Atlanta Hawks gave Shelvin Mack $7.3 million over three years.
Lin’s tenure with the Lakers was disappointing on many levels, and there are many caveats he'll have to consider, but there are lots of options out there for him as free agency begins this summer.