Looking back, the depth chart of the 1997-98 Phoenix Suns at the point guard spot was crazy: Jason Kidd (starting), Steve Nash (2nd-year backup) and Kevin Johnson (combo guard near the end of the road). Now, all three have All-NBA credentials and at least arguable Hall of Fame potential, and at some point in their respective careers averaged 10-plus assists per game.
At the time, KJ had already left his mark on the game. And we knew J-Kidd was something special. The biggest surprise of the group was Nash, who would go on to win two league MVPs during his second career stint with the Suns years later.
Looking at today’s NBA teams that have depth at point guard, I’m seeing Jeremy Lin‘s situation appears very similar to where Nash once was.
The Golden State Warriors have a very promising Stephen Curry playing the J-Kidd role, the unquestioned starter at PG who is going to put up impressive numbers across the board. Monta Ellis is the explosive combo guard who can still slide over and play PG, just like Kevin Johnson (albeit just entering his prime). That leaves Lin as the virtual unknown, who is gaining props after the Summer League run he had in Vegas. Just like Nash, Lin didn’t hone his skills at a college basketball powerhouse. Just like Nash, he is a minority in the game who has had to prove himself at every step in the process and plays with a perpetual underdog chip on his shoulder.
Nash is a Santa Clara product, which has as much basketball fame as Lin’s Harvard University. But just like Nash, the former Ivy Leaguer made the most of his small opportunity. Lin’s fearless competitiveness made NBA scouts take notice of the California native. He opened people’s eyes by putting up 16.4 points, 4.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game as a senior. His stats were not too far off from Nash’s senior year stats — 17 points 3.5 rebounds and 6 assists per contest.
Their size and style of play are also fairly similar. Both stand 6-foot-3, both weigh around 200 pounds. Each is a blur in the open court, with great vision and dependable pull-up jumpers. And most of all, both Nash and Lin rarely pick up their dribble, a lost art among point guards. By always keeping his options open with the ball in play, Nash creates extra time and space for himself and for his teammates to get open and get buckets. I think that knack for keeping his dribble is what will translate into Nash-type success for Lin more than anything. Very few players can keep their dribble while under pressure, and those who do increase their chances of being good NBA point guards.
I know it’s insane for me to make such a bold suggestion before Lin has even played an official game. He’s not even a starter. And while Nash was at least a first-round draft pick, Lin’s name wasn’t called on Draft Night. However, to me I just see special intangibles when I watch Jeremy on the floor. If Lin can keep his handle up to par and keep that chip on his shoulder until the right opportunity comes along, the double-doubles are sure to come for this Asian-American sensation.