The Brooklyn Nets added just one notable name in the offseason, signing combo guard Jeremy Lin following his exciting "Linsanity" time with the New York Knicks in 2011-12 and after varying results with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets. While the struggling organization gets a boost with the addition of Lin, the 27-year-old has finally landed in a situation he's craved for so long: a secured starting role and consistent playing time.
Inking a three-year, $38.3 million contract with the Nets earlier this month, Lin joins a hodgepodge roster that should have trouble improving on its 21-61 mark from last season, the second-worst record in the league. Yet Lin will have more freedom than ever before under first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant with the Knicks during "Linsanity." Only center Brook Lopez can expect to take more shots than Lin next season.
Brooklyn can't afford Lin a shot at more postseason action, yet he should play more minutes and get more starts than with his five previous teams. It wouldn't be surprising if he averages about 35 minutes a game, which would be a sharp uptick from his 26.8 career average. Lin’s last and only stint as a full-time starter came with the Rockets in the 2012-13 season, during which he averaged career-highs across the board with 13.4 points, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals over 32.2 minutes in 82 starts.
At times a defensive liability, Lin would lose time to Patrick Beverley and would never start more than 33 games over the subsequent three seasons with the Lakers and Hornets. With the Lakers, Lin was part of a transitioning roster that seemed to have little interest in competing for playoff berth in the deep Western Conference.
In Charlotte, Lin appeared in 78 games and emerged as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for a team that finished with the third best record in the East. He averaged 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists a game to lead a Hornets bench that finished ninth in scoring with 37.1 points a contest. Lin even cut his turnovers down to 1.9 a game.
Behind solid outside shooting and playmaking, Lin has silenced many of his detractors. But he will now be called upon to lift a Nets squad that was 26th in scoring and 24th in defense last season.
Brooklyn, though, has experienced heavy roster turnover, which poses a big challenge for Atkinson. Twelve players, including former All-Star Joe Johnson and forward Thaddeus Young, are gone. The Nets will also be without point guard Jarrett Jack, who provided serviceable numbers in 32 games, and will be replaced by Lin.
Nets general manager Sean Marks, crippled by previous trades and lacking draft picks, used the team’s considerable salary cap space to build out the roster. He brought in veteran forwards Trevor Booker and Luis Scola, as well as guard Randy Foye, and took a flier on former No. 1 overall pick and forward Anthony Bennett.
Specifically in the backcourt, Lin will be the constant while Atkinson figures out whether Foye or Greivis Vasquez, who appeared in only 23 games with Milwaukee due to ankle surgery last season, will hold down the starting two-guard spot.
From there, Atkinson will have to work in a young rotation of guards, including rookies Marcus Paige, Caris LeVert, and Isaiah Whitehead, with third-year players Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris. Kilpatrick is the only holdover from last year’s backcourt and he played very well over 23 games after signing two 10-day contracts with Brooklyn and netting 13.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting.