Jeremy Lin is going to be one of the NBA’s most fascinating free-agency cases this summer. After a forgettable year with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014-15, he was something of a reclamation project when he signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets for $4.3 million. He had a great year in Charlotte, finding a niche as a third guard off the bench, and now he’s set to cash in. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Chris Haynes is reporting that Lin will opt out of the second year of his contract to test the market as the salary cap is expected to jump to nearly $90 million.
Point guard is one of the deepest positions in the league, so it’s unlikely that Lin will find a starting job, but he could command close to $10 million per year as a backup given the way the market is shaping up. Re-signing in Charlotte is a strong possibility — he’s comfortable there, and he rejuvenated his career this season under Steve Clifford. But the Hornets have some other free-agency decisions to make. Five key players on this year’s team are due for new contracts: Lin, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee. Batum will undoubtedly get a max deal, and Charlotte will push hard to re-sign him. The others could be priced out of the Hornets’ reach on the open market, particularly Lee and Williams, who are valuable, versatile forwards.
Aside from Batum, Lin makes the most sense for the Hornets to re-sign, but the Hornets will have competition.
A return to New York, where Linsanity was born, could come across as a PR move, but it actually makes sense from a basketball standpoint. Lin thrived there in 2012, in Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo offense. The Knicks’ new coach, Jeff Hornacek, played fast in Phoenix and will look to do the same in New York. The Knicks’ current starting point guard is Jose Calderon, meaning Lin would actually have a chance to start.
It’s tough to imagine a second stint in Houston happening — Lin wasn’t happy when the Rockets put up billboards of Carmelo Anthony wearing his number during 2014’s recruitment — but the presence of D’Antoni makes it an interesting possibility. Lin and Harden have had success together in the past, and the Rockets need another playmaking guard after last year’s Ty Lawson experiment failed so spectacularly.