The Houston Rockets became one of the top contenders in the NBA with the signing of Dwight Howard. The eighth-seed in the Western Conference from the past season has, arguably, the best center in Howard and the best shooting guard in James Harden.
With two All-Stars in their starting lineup, Houston is a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. The play of the rest of the roster will determine whether or not they are a legitimate threat to the Miami Heat. Besides the Rockets’ two stars, Jeremy Lin may be the most important player in the lineup. The point guard signed a three-year contract with the club in 2012 and had an up-and-down first year in Houston.
Lin played all 82 games in 2012-2013. He finished the year averaging 13.5 points, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. The point guard improved in the second half of the season. After the All-Star Game, his scoring average increased by 2.3 points and he shot 45.5 percent from the field, as compared to the 43.4 percent he shot before the break.
The 24-year-old got progressively better, but he wasn’t among the best players at his position. Could that change in 2013-2014? While Lin may not emerge as an elite point guard, the addition of Howard could make him a much better player.
"It's huge. It's really important for us," Lin said of the Rockets' acquisition of the free agent. "When you talk about a franchise player or a superstar, having him and James Harden -- we're definitely fortunate to have two of those top-tier guys."
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There may not be a better big man in the NBA for the Rockets to pair Lin with than Howard. When he played the best ball of his career with the New York Knicks, Lin thrived in the pick-and-roll. In Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, which relies heavily on the pick-and-roll, Lin averaged 20.9 points and 8.4 assists per game in his first month of regular playing time.
No NBA player scores more efficiently off the pick-and-roll than Howard. In 2012, his last season with the Orlando Magic, the big man led the league by averaging 1.38 points per play on pick-and-rolls. With Houston, Lin and Howard should be a very dangerous tandem by using the most common play in basketball.
Last year, Lin suffered because he lacked a center that was skilled offensively. Omer Asik is known much more for his defense and ability to rebound, and can be a liability, at times, on offense. Now, Lin has a reliable option in the paint. Asik, reportedly wanted a trade when the team signed Howard, but general manager Daryl Morey has said the club will keep the seven-footer.
Lin has shown the ability to play extremely well when put in the right situation. Now that he’s surrounded by two star players in basketball, he could have his best full season as a pro.