Putting a Lid on the Linsanity

As everyone has seen by now, there has been a new basketball phenomenon to hit the Big Apple. The man’s name is Jeremy Lin and he’s riding a huge tidal wave that most people would like to call “Lin-Sanity”.

Lin has been amazing in his first five games logging significant minutes. In games where Lin has logged 30 minutes or more he is averaging 27.3 points per game along with eight assists per game via basketball-reference. Along with those monstrous numbers, and setting an NBA record for points scored in his first four starts with 109 points, the Knicks are also on a five-game winning streak. Just to let you guys know, after Carmelo went down and Lin emerged I stated that they would go on a 5 game winning streak. It was tongue in cheek, but I’ll still take credit for that nonetheless.

I digress. Lin has emerged as a hoop hero throughout the world; captivating audiences with his admirable performances seemingly from out of nowhere. Even though some of us knew that he could play, I think I can safely say most did not. Just the week before he was in the D League playing for the Reno Bighorns and putting up some pretty decent numbers. He had reportedly been sleeping on his brothers couch in New York and was about to be cut after the Knicks had called him up. Then he gets the opportunity to shine and does just that.

Getting to the point and out of the Lin-(insert pun here), I got a chance to watch Jeremy Lin last week when he played the Washington Wizards. Lin and Wall were going at it, just as they did in their summer league showcase during their rookie seasons. As a Wizard fan, I took notice of Lin during that game. I was surprised that he went undrafted because I remembered a game where Lin hung 30 points up on UConn with a relatively unknown cast of players at Harvard. You can view that video below if you’ve never seen it before.

As you can see, Lin played a lot of off guard in college but he also ran some point too. He wasn’t just a point guard at Harvard but he was allowed to control the ball a lot. Creating for himself was his main goal because that was his role with the lack of talent that he had around him. I don’t want to make the Steve Nash comparison here, but I can’t really help it. While Nash was a good passer of the ball at Santa Clara, he was primarily a scorer on that team. There are some striking similarities between their playing styles that you can’t help but notice.

Above is some video of Lin going at it with John Wall. Even though Lin’s team didn’t win the game, be pretty much out-played John Wall. He went 6/12 in that game for 13 points and a few dimes. He did a hell of a job on John Wall too. If I can recall, Wall went 4/19 from the field in that game. For an undrafted player vs the number one pick in the draft, Lin held his own.

You could always tell that Lin had talent. He was just never given the opportunity to play–especially since he was picked up by the Warriors and the Rockets who have heavy guard rotations. There just wasn’t any space for him on their roster, and that’s fine. Even though Lin has played very well in all of the games that he’s received significant playing time in, he is still stoppable. I believe that he is an above average point guard in the NBA, but I don’t think that he will crack a top 10 spot anytime soon.

I hate to be a buzz kill to this awesome story, but I think that there are some holes in his game that could possibly hurt him in the long run. There is room for improvement in every player, but right now I’m going to nit pick.

Lin has a real feel for the pick and roll. Of course, in a lot of eyes it looks simple, but the pick and roll is really an art. You’ve got to feel the defense around you and feel your teammates around you. If you run it correctly it is the most powerful offense in the league, no doubt. There is almost no stopping it depending on how you run it. That’s what Lin has done in these past few games.

His vision has been amazing. He has taken the proper angle when running PnR almost every time. His hesitation dribbles are a large reason for that also. He’s mastered the dribble so early in his career so count on him improving and doing a lot more with it. The key to anyone’s hesitation is to freeze the defense and then make your move. Some players hesitation freezes just one or two defenders on the PnR. Lin has the type that can freeze up three to four defenders at a time. That makes a PnR that much easier to score on–especially when you’ve got a big as skilled as Tyson Chandler on your side.

His passing skills also come into play here. You have to be honest on the pass as a defender. You don’t want to just let your man get an open look for a three so you stay home. Meanwhile, the lane is wide open for Lin to come down and score or Tyson to dive and get an easy two. You can see this in the video below that I grabbed from nbaplaybook.com.

Now sure, those teams are some of the worst defensively speaking. However, the same concepts still apply there. You’ve got to respect Lin off of his hesitation and you have to respect his floor vision. This is how these wide open lanes are created for him to drive down or deliver a pass to his big.

Being able to stop and go at any moment is also key here. Lin is very good at stopping his forward progress, hesitating, and then moving once again. This will keep his defender guessing, if nothing else, and allow Lin just enough space to get by and get to the rim. This is not what you want in this case because he finishes well at the rim.

There are multiple ways to counter this. You could play under the screen to give Jeremy less space to get by you. This will also tempt him to take jumpers and that’s probably how you’d want to let him beat you. He’s shooting less than 30 percent from beyond the arch as a Knicks starter. So when he’s above the arch you could go with the trap and see how that works.

When doing this, though, you must make sure that he goes to his left. Lin has real problems finishing from his left. If he isn’t allowed to switch over to his right hand he has a problem seeing the defense and it forces him to take more dribbles than he’d like. When running the PnR every dribble has meaning and should create space. That is what separates the good point guards from the great ones. When you take too many dribbles it allows the defense too much recovery time. That’s what happens when Lin uses his left hand.

Above you can see Lin was more focused on trying to control his dribble than anything else. He looked uncomfortable going to the left side and his head wasn’t up for him to hit Tyson Chandler at the rim. He also threw up a difficult finger roll that barely hit the backboard. This was a bad play for Lin, but as you can see it didn’t come from going under the screen. It actually came from a trap. It was a weak trap, but a trap nonetheless. This was the case in both instances vs the Nets and the Jazz in the video. That’s the best way that I see fit for dealing with Lin.

If you trap him and take away his right hand, he will have little place to go with the ball. Until Carmelo and Amar’e get back, you want to force the other Knicks to beat you. Take the ball out of Lin’s hands and force the offense to be run by someone else other than the emerging point guard. If you can get the ball out of his hands early in the clock and disrupt the play after about 5 or 6 seconds it gives the Knicks less time during the reset to find a suitable play or PnR combo. If they try to find Lin and get him the ball back, it will take even more time off of the clock. He’ll force something up and it will be a failed possession for New York. You can see that situation below.

Defenses will begin to play Lin more like this in the coming weeks, even after Stoudemire and Anthony return. The point guard is the most important player in the Mike D’Antoni system. This is why you need the ball to be out of his hands and into anyone elses. If the ball stops, they struggle. It’s as simple as that. Look for people to trap off of him more and try to force some turnovers. Young guards usually struggle with this, but maybe Lin will excel. He has done that so far in his short tenure as the Knicks starting point guard. I look forward to seeing it.

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About Michael D. Sykes, II
Hoops writer, I've come to terms with it. I love Basketball and it loves me back. Check me out at Baselinehoops.com and my own creation, "Whats Left on the Floor" at http://ballahollicsonly.wordpress.com.

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