In February of 2012, Jeremy Lin burst onto the NBA scene with a series of inexplicable individual performances that seemingly came out of nowhere for the point guard out of Harvard. In 12 games leading up to that year’s All-Star game, Lin averaged more than 22 points per game and nearly nine assists, leading the New York Knicks to a 9-3 record over that span, and at the time, helping them climb back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, that year ended on a bit of a down note for Lin, as a torn meniscus in his left knee prematurely ended his season in late-March. But, for a brief time, “Linsanity” reigned, and he turned his successful run with the Knicks into a backloaded (remember the poison pill final year is what scared the Knicks away), three-year, $25-million deal with the Rockets later that summer.
The next two seasons with the Rockets did not go exactly as planned, with Lin facing criticism from the public for having a contract that was perceived as inflated. Whether that perception was justified is debatable. His Player Efficiency Rating was more or less league-average in all three seasons, so his $8.3 million (on average) annual salary — with $14.8 million of that added as a poison pill for cap room in the final year — may not seem so bad when put within the context of a league that continues to pay high salaries for free-agent veterans with even average production.
Justifiably or not, being labeled “overpaid” or “overrated” has been a narrative that followed Lin since his magical spring in Manhattan. That is, until this year, where he’s completely flipped the script.
Lin is making $2.1 million this season, [which is] less than half the NBA’s $4.9 million average salary. Jeremy Lin is far outperforming his contract — and no one’s giving him any credit for it. Surprised?
Lin’s dogged, raving critics certainly would be if they ever took the time to notice what he actually does on the court. Take the 17-point night and 7-for-11 shooting he dropped on one of his old teams (the Knicks) Wednesday night. Or the savagely efficient game he played in the Charlotte Hornets’ win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. Lin took advantage of every minute Charlotte coach Steve Clifford gave him, racking up 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and a nifty plus-18 rating.
It’s true: Lin is quietly having a superb season, all while earning a fraction of what players of his production typically make.
Of course, this is certainly a small sample, but through eight games this season, Lin is averaging 21 points and five assists per 36 minutes played, and has a career-high PER of 21, a figure which places him amongst the NBA’s elite.
Lin will never be a dominant point guard in the NBA. We’ll never speak of him in the same breath as players like Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry. But in a reserve role in Charlotte, that’s not what they’re asking him to be, nor what they’re paying him to be. In fact, his production so far says he may just be the NBA’s biggest bargain.