Jeremy Lin: Labeling Young Point Guard a Bust Is Premature

Tim KeeneyContributor IFebruary 17, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 26:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a play on the court during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Toyota Center on January 26, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

While labeling Jeremy Lin a bust is simple and easy, it's also narrow-minded and flat-out incorrect. 

On the surface, the 24-year-old point guard's first season with the Houston Rockets has been an average one. He's putting up 12.6 points (on 43.4 percent shooting), 6.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Certainly not "Linsanity" levels of awesomeness, but nothing terrible, either.

However, the fact that Lin established himself as the greatest thing on the planet since sliced bread in a matter of a week last season and subsequently got a pricey three-year, $25-million contract makes it innate to label that type of production as bust-worthy. 

When the expectations are mountainous, a tolerable season with little improvement will hardly ever cut it. 

But has Lin really been as horrendous as his critics would lead you to believe?

Def-Linitely not (I'm sorry). 

Lin's scoring is down from last year's magical season. In about six more minutes per game, he is averaging two less points per contest. On a per-36-minute basis, his scoring average has fallen from 19.6 to 13.9. 

But despite playing point guard, Lin—unlike he was during the majority of his time as a starter in New York—is not the center of the offense in Houston. 

According to Basketball-Reference, the young floor general's usage has dropped significantly from 28.1 percent to 19.8 percent. With James Harden (29.2 usage percentage) quickly becoming one of the best scoring options in the league, far less possessions are ending with the ball in Lin's hands.

A scoring drop-off should be expected, and a more accurate judgement of his offensive prowess should be reliant on his efficiency, not the volume of his numbers.

In 2011-12, Lin had a true-shooting percentage of .552 and an effective field-goal percentage of .478. This season, the former has dropped to .528 and the latter has stayed the exact same. 

It's unfortunate to see his jump shot fail to improve, but there has hardly been a step back as the critics tend to argue. 

Instead of scoring, Lin is slowly transforming into more of a true point guard. 

While his assist numbers have decreased—28.8 assist percentage, down from 41.0 a year ago—he is taking much better care of the basketball. 

The main criticism against Lin's game last year was his high volume of turnovers, and this season, he has dropped his TO rate from 21.4 percent to 19.8 percent. He is averaging 3.2 giveaways per 36 minutes, compared to 4.8 last year.

Lin is transforming into a heady facilitator. His assist-to-turnover ratio is up to an impressive 2.12 after being at 1.71 last season.  

On a team level, let's not forget that the young leader is a crucial part of a Rockets squad that is fourth in the entire league with 109.7 points per 100 possessions.

Defensively, Lin is up and down. He often gambles quite a bit, and while that results in an impressive 1.9 thefts per contest, it often allows him to get beat. Overall, though, Lin is a tough, athletic, better-than-advertised defender, and when he's on the court, the Rockets give up 2.3 less points per 100 possessions

Lin hasn't taken the step forward that so many were hoping for, but he is still just 24 years old. While his global status is unlike any other NBA star, he follows the same progression pattern as most on the court. 

There is still plenty of time to improve, and this season, both unspectacular and better than publicized at the same time, will serve as a building block for his continued development. 

Lin is not yet a superstar, but he is light years from being a bust. The jury is still out on him, and this season is proving exactly that.