NEW YORK — The New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin-fueled winning streak came to a unexpected halt Friday night. But one loss does not take away from what Lin has been able to do over the last two weeks.
There are so many aspects to Lin’s story, so may reasons he appeals to tons of people around the world. But the reason he appeals to the Knicks is pretty simple: He’s a player that Mike D’Antoni can trust with the ball in his hands.
Before their game against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4, the Knicks stood at 8-15 with the 24th-ranked offense in the league, despite having two of the game’s most lethal scorers at the forward positions. And it was obvious to any observer that D’Antoni’s offense could not function properly without a point guard who could run the pick-and-roll.
Chauncey Billups had been waived via the amnesty clause to add Tyson Chandler to the frontline. Baron Davis wasn’t ready to play and Mike Bibby‘s days of being a full-time point guard were in the past. By default, the Knicks’ starting point guard was Iman Shumpert, a rookie and, really, not a point guard.
“We had two guards trying to make point guard decisions,” Chandler said this week.
Lin is far from the quickest or strongest point guard in the league, and he’s not a great shooter either. But he’s smart, and that has made all the difference for the Knicks.
“He’s just a smart basketball player,” D’Antoni said. “Obviously, this is his first year he’s played [extensively] in the league, but he’s light years ahead of most guys. It becomes a second sense. He feels the right play and makes it. I can’t explain it.”
“He’s not out there going between the legs and shaking people,” Chandler said. “He’s just making the right play. With his offense, it’s just making the right play. Just come off the pick-and-roll, get past your guy and make the right read.”
Here are a few examples…
Lin comes off a high screen from Amar’e Stoudemire. Chuck Hayes hedges, but is unable to completely cut Lin off, and Lin knows that if he can get around Hayes, he’ll have an advantage. We see some pretty poor help defense from Tyreke Evans on the baseline, and when Jason Thompson helps off Chandler, Lin finds his teammate under the basket for a dunk.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, in pick-and-roll situations, Lin goes with the screen 68 percent of the time, splits the defenders six percent of time, and goes away from the screen 26 percent of the time.
Most of the Knicks’ pick-and-roll action for Lin comes from the side of the floor, rather than the top of the key.
Here, Lin sets up Stoudemire’s screen by first dribbling the ball to the left side, giving himself more space to operate when coming off the screen. Aaron Gray retreats, so Lin attacks and finds Stoudemire on the roll when Amir Johnson helps in the paint…
When his defender looks to keep Kin from going with the screen, Lin doesn’t hesitate to go the other way. And according to Synergy, going away from the screen has been a more efficient choice.
John Salmons slides to the side of the screen and Lin attacks the rim, picking up the bucket and the foul…
Beyond straight pick-and-rolls, having a point guard he can trust has allowed D’Antoni to open up the playbook.
With the defense focused on Lin as he takes a handoff from Stoudemire, Chandler sets a back-screen for Landry Fields on the weak side…
With Lin’s spectacular play, you also get a lot of turnovers. He has committed 46 over the last eight games and 45 in his seven starts.
In part, the high volume is a result of Lin having the ball in his hands so much. Of 121 players who have logged at least 200 minutes over the last two weeks, Lin ranks fifth in usage rate and seventh in turnover rate.
Still, he has been guilty of being a little too careless at times. After Lin committed nine turnovers in Friday’s loss, D’Antoni talked about his point guard “trying to make the hardest pass out there.”
Here are a few examples of Lin’s passing turnovers…
Of Lin’s 46 turnovers over the last eight games though, only half have been on passes. The other 23 have come off the dribble.
Lin has a loose handle, and opposing defenders have been aggressive in trying to get their hands on the ball when he puts it on the floor. Here are a few examples of Lin’s dribbling turnovers…
The troubling part of dribbling turnovers is that they tend to be live-ball turnovers, which produce transition opportunities for the opposition. In total, 32 of Lin’s 46 turnovers have been of the live-ball variety. That’s a rate of 70 percent, far above the league average of 52 percent.
Jeremy Lin’s turnovers, last eight games
|Type||Dribbling||Passing||Opp. Pts.||Opp. Pts/Poss|
The numbers point out the obvious. Live-ball turnovers are much more damaging than dead-ball turnovers (where the opponent has to take the ball out of bounds).
What has gotten lost in the Linsanity is that the Knicks have been excellent defensively, allowing just 94 points per 100 possessions, over the last eight games. And they’d be even better if Lin was doing a better job of taking care of the ball on the other end of the floor.