Going into Steph Curry’s second season, the Warriors took a flyer on a 22-year-old from Harvard after the point guard went undrafted. His name is Jeremy Lin. Lin now is on his way to Atlanta, where he will play alongside Trae Young, who many consider to be Steph Curry 2.0. Once Lin steps onto the floor as a Hawk for the first time, he’ll be able to say he played with both Steph Curry and Trae Young. But, one thing is different.
Lin was 22 in his rookie season in Oakland, where he was a no-name who had previously went undrafted. His rookie season was the last year he averaged below 11 points a game. After 8 seasons full of madness, from the birth of “Linsanity” to a season in LA, Jeremy Lin will serve a different purpose for the Hawks than he did for the Warriors. While the 2010-11 version of Jeremy Lin was just a roster-filler, the 2017-18 Lin will provide leadership, and most importantly mentorship, to a young Hawks team led by rookie PG Trae Young and 2nd year forward John Collins.
On the evening on July 12th, Jeremy Lin was sent to the Hawks so Brooklyn could clear enough cap space to acquire Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur from the Denver Nuggets. From a business perspective, the move doesn’t make much sense for the Hawks. Lin is due 13.8 million dollars next year, and the Hawks got a 2025 second round pick (yes- a current 6th grader) and the ability to swap 2023 2nd round picks as their only compensation. Usually, for teams to take on contracts like Lin’s, a higher, more recent draft pick or a young player is included.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 13, 2018
And from a basketball perspective? Lin suffered a ruptured patella tendon in the Nets’ first game of the 2017-18 season. Lin is approaching 30, which is widely considered out of a player’s prime. NBA fans don’t know how Lin will perform this season, or when he’ll return from his injury. So, if the Hawks wanted Lin purely for his ability to play basketball, they either know something we don’t, or they want him for another reason…
A rebuild that arguably founded the term “tank” was the Philadelphia 76ers. In 2014, they drafted Joel Embiid to being “the process” along with Nerlens Noel. In 2015, they drafted Jahlil Okafor. After getting the #1 pick in 2016, they selected Ben Simmons. The 76ers were loaded with talent, but they couldn’t seem to eclipse the 20-win mark. “The Process” was thought to be insane after the 2015-16 76ers went 10-72, including a 1-21 start. Executive Sam Hinkie departed on April 6, 2016, and Bryan and Jerry Colangelo came to revive “The Process.”
The Colangelo’s did something in the 2016 offseason that Hinkie refused to do: sign veterans. Hinkie went full-on tank-mode, which helped them acquire top draft picks, but there was no veteran leadership to help the players, and the young players didn’t know how to win.
The new regime signed Gerald Henderson and Jerryd Bayless, and traded for Ersan Ilyasova, three veteran pieces to lead the young 76ers. During the 2016-17 season, the 76ers claimed veteran Mo Williams off waivers and traded for Tiago Splitter, Justin Anderson, and Andrew Bogut (later waived). These guys weren’t the players they used to be, but they provided leadership and a winner’s mentality that sparked guys like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who made his debut in 2016. The 2016-17 76ers won 18 more games than the previous season, which was the first year over 20 wins since the 2012-13 season.
The Hawks, in the beginning of a massive rebuild, have a very young roster. Kent Bazemore and Miles Plumlee are the oldest players at age 29, and Bazemore is the only true leader on this roster despite his shaky play. Most of this Hawks team is only familiar with losing, and most of the roster is rookies or 2nd year players.
Insert Jeremy Lin. Lin has experienced winning, is now one of the oldest members on the team, and knows a thing (or two) about being a polarizing, young point guard at one point. Lin won’t help the Hawks lose more games or get a better draft pick, but he will help in an area way more important: Mentorship.
Lin has been known to be a great teammate and an even better mentor. Here’s a quote from Sean Kilpatrick about Lin’s influence:
“Being able to have a guy like that with the teams he’s been with before and all the knowledge that he knows now and being able to text him every day and get some type of advice or pick his brain a little bit,” Nets shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick said about Lin to the Nets website.
Lin only played 37 games over the past two seasons, but he remained active with his teammates, serving as a teammate, mentor, and leader.
“I think for me it was, ‘how do you serve people, how do you love your teammates through this losing,” said Lin to NetsDaily, after the Nets won 20 games in his first season with the team.
Lin has taken many teammates under his wing, and Trae Young will be his next. Young is the franchise centerpiece of a team with a first year coach and a very young core. Lin is the perfect influence to Trae, as Lin has dealt with the spotlight, losing, and talented, young guards like Young.
Like any rookie, Young will go through learning curves, tough spells, and the rigor of a 82 game season. But, Lin will now be beside him through every step of his rookie season as Young attempts to steer the franchise into a winning culture. And, Lin won’t be beside him just off the court, as Lin will help Young learn how to play Point Guard in the NBA. Before Lin, the Hawks had no Point Guard to mentor Trae Young, as Dennis Schröder is young, wreckless, and not known to be a great teammate.
Lin can also teach Young how to lead a team on the court. He can teach Young how to learn a system and how to prepare for games. If Lin makes close to a full recovery, he’ll be one of the Hawks’ best players. Lin will help the Hawks slowly build a winning culture with his performance. And, Trae Young is only 19 and needs veterans to show him the ropes. Lin is due a hefty amount next year, but the leadership, mentorship, and production on the court is priceless for a young team trying to take the next step.
(Cover photo: Clutchpoints.com)
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