Two weeks ago, Jeremy Lin was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, which had a largely barren roster and no head coach. As July comes to a close, the team has signed several free agents and finally hired someone to lead the team.
L.A. and Byron Scott have agreed to a four-year deal, marking the fourth head coaching stint of the 53-year-old’s career. Scott has had success in other places, leading the then-New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals, and taking the New Orleans Hornets to the playoffs twice. As he prepares to coach the Lakers, Scott is hoping the team will succeed by emphasizing defense.
"He [Kobe Bryant] told me he was working out with Wesley [Johnson] and Nick [Young]," Scott told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne. "I told them that sounded great, but they 'better be ready to play some defense.'”
If defense is going to be Scott’s main concern, Lin could have a difficult chance of thriving in Los Angeles. The point guard made a name for himself by putting up big offensive numbers with the New York Knicks, and even having some scoring outbursts with the Houston Rockets. He hasn’t exactly been one of the NBA’s better defenders.
Last season, the Rockets ranked 13th in the league with a 107 defensive rating. The team had a more difficult time stopping opponents with Lin on the court, as he registered a personal defensive rating of 109. His 1.1 steals per game also decreased from the 1.6 average he had in each of the previous two years.
All of the league's top five defensive teams won at least 48 games in 2013-14. The Indiana Pacers proved to be the best at stopping their opponents, and led the Eastern Conference with 56 victories.
Lin comes to L.A. as a below-average defender, but he could see his game improve under Scott’s tutelage. Scott has coached some of the best point guards of the last few years. With the Nets, he coached Jason Kidd, and he was with the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul.
As a player, Scott was teammates with perhaps the greatest point guard of all time. He spent the bulk of his career with the Lakers, playing alongside Magic Johnson.
While Lin will have to improve his defense, it’s not as if he’s joining a team that is full of defensive stalwarts. Steve Nash, with whom Lin will compete for playing time, has always been recognized as a poor defender. After missing 99 games in the past two seasons because of injuries, Nash could prove himself to be a defensive liability.
If the Lakers want to compete in the 2014-15 season, they may need a big season from Lin. He’s the team’s best option at point guard, considering Nash’s age and injury history, as well as the release of Kendall Marshall. Bryant and Carlos Boozer will likely be Los Angeles’ top two players, but Lin has a chance to step in and be the No. 3 option.