Jeremy Lin is a Houston Rocket. The Knicks didn’t match Houston’s offer sheet, and the team’s most popular player is gone. The question everyone’s asking – will Lin be able to duplicate his 18-7 averages in New York as a starter on the Rockets and get Houston to the playoffs?
Answers: Probably not immediately and definitely no.
Let’s first look at what he left. A team with two Olympians (Melo and Chandler) and Amare Stoudemire. Even though Amare isn’t what he once was, he’s still a better scoring option (especially in the pick-and-roll) than anything Lin will have in the Houston frontcourt.
Take a look at Houston’s roster. There’s one player currently on it over the age of 30 (Earl Boykins, who may not even make the team). The Rockets are brimming with young talent – four rookies (Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and 7-footer Donatas Motiejunas) are playing excellent so far in the Vegas Summer League and figure to be part of the 9-man rotation – but good luck finding anyone with relevant playoff experience. Kevin Martin played six playoff games in 2006. Lin and many others on the Rockets’ roster were teenagers in high school at the time.
The Rockets, as presently constructed, are headed back to the lottery. They’re just too young. (Silver lining: They’ll have two lottery picks – their own plus Toronto’s in the Kyle Lowry deal.)
Two large questions loom, though:
* What does Dwight Howard think of the Lin acquisition? They’d make a beautiful pick-and-roll marriage. What would Howard cost the Rockets?
* What happens with Omer Asik, the Bulls center who Houston is pursuing? He’s only started two games and averaged just 3.1 ppg and 5.3 rpg last year in Chicago, but he’d be a step up in the middle of the Rockets.
If I had to guess the Rockets starting lineup right now, I’d go with (current age in parens):
PG – Lin (23)
SG – Kevin Martin (29)
SF – Jeremy Lamb (20)
PF – Patrick Patterson (23)
C – Motiejunas (21)
That’s got to be one of the youngest teams in the league. Even if you want Lamb to come off the bench, who is starting at SF, 23-year-old Chandler Parsons? I’m cool with making Motiejunas a reserve, too. Other options at center? Not-ready players like Jerome Jordan (25) and Greg Smith (21). Royce White and Terrence Jones both will figure prominently this season in some capacity, and the player I’d look for as a sleeper is Jon Leuer, a 6-foot-10 shooter from Wisconsin. He could be next year’s Steve Novak.
[UPDATE: About eight hours after this post went up, Houston waived Jordan and Leuer. Guess I'll have to look harder for that sleeper.]