The Houston Rockets are riding a four game winning streak, and much of the success can be attributed to the consistent production from point guard Jeremy Lin.
After trudging through minor back and knee injuries, the 25-year-old has regained the offensive groove that made him a sensation and such highly coveted restricted free agent two years ago. Between late November and mid-December Lin missed 10-of-12 games due to his injuries, but since healing up he’s stabilized a Rockets backcourt that was also missing Patrick Beverley.
Both starting and coming off the bench, Lin has averaged 12.6 points in his last 22 games, but during the current winning streak he’s knocking down nearly 49 percent of his total field goal attempts and is also averaging 6.8 assists per game.
Undoubtedly the improved and more consistent play of center Dwight Howard and shooting guard James Harden has largely contributed to Houston’s rise up the Western Conference standings, but Lin has played the role of offensive facilitator for the second unit as well as third scoring option for the Rockets starters.
This improved production could either mean Lin has silenced any doubts Houston had about signing him to a lucrative deal back in 2012, or it could be a showcase of Lin’s talents for a trade ahead of the Feb. 20 deadline.
It will be interesting to see over the next two weeks whether the Rockets remain committed to keeping Lin, or hope to use him as a trade chip to either clear up cap space or land a late first-round draft pick.
Two teams in dire need of both scoring and more backcourt depth are the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, who have coincidentally been linked to numerous trade rumors all season.
After Derrick Rose went down due a second major knee injury in two years, the Bulls began to unload cap space in order to be major players in free agency but also hoped to remain competitive in the weaker Eastern Conference. Chicago already moved Luol Deng’s expiring deal, and have reportedly entertained offers for veteran Kirk Hinrich as well as forward Taj Gibson.
The Bulls are dead last in the NBA in points per game, and could use Lin’s playmaking and scoring abilities. The only drawback being the final year of Lin’s contract, worth $8.3 million in the 2014-15 season. However that could be seen as a bargain and extra insurance with Rose’s health possibly an issue for the rest of his career.
The Lakers have been in a downward spiral all season with a plethora of injuries affecting their backcourt. Their three top point guards in Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake have since returned from lengthy injury hiatuses, but it’s unclear how long any of the three will remain healthy.
The veteran Nash made his return to the L.A.’s lineup earlier this week and played in two of their last three games, but his advanced age and continuing back injury woes can’t be trusted at this point in his career.
Farmar appeared in his first game since early January and netted 21 points in the incredible victory over Cleveland on Wednesday only to miss the next on Friday against Philadelphia in order to rest. Blake, on the other hand, appears more reliable at this point after notching a triple-double in the Cleveland victory, after missing 26 straight games.
L.A. likely won’t want to take Lin’s contract on, but his proven ability to electrify big-market crowds could pay his wage and any possible luxury taxes L.A. could accrue.