Now that the chances of Jeremy Lin becoming a member of the Houston Rockets seem to be around 90%, it's time to move past the merits of the contract. If you've read some of the articles I've posted over the last several weeks you know I'm against the deal, but let's start discussing how he fits on this roster and how much of an improvement to the roster he'll provide. I've argued that Lin's numbers dropping off drastically in March in comparison to February pointed to the league figuring him out and that "Linsanity" was more of a fluke than a level of play he could sustain. If signing Lin was a good move, then he'd obviously have to improve your strength at his position, so where does Lin rank among Western Conference point guards? Here's my ranking of Western Conference point guards:
1. Chris Paul - LA Clippers
Arguably the best point guard in the league, Paul is a leader, can score, can dish it out, and is a pretty good defender. Paul is most deadly with the pick and roll, leading way to several alley-oop dunks per game. Over his career Paul has averaged 18.8 points, 9.8 assists, and 2.4 steals per game.
2. Tony Parker - San Antonio Spurs
Parker was a legit MVP candidate last year and took his game to another level with Tim Duncan on the downside of his career and Manu Ginobili out with an injury most of the season. Parker averaged 18.3 points and a career high 7.7 assists per game last season.
3. Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook is the most athletic player not only at his position, but maybe in the entire league. Once he figures out the mental side of the game, he'll be unstoppable. He needs to harness his aggressive, attacking nature at times, and learn to pick his spots. If Westbrook cuts down on the turnovers and improves on his ability to run the offense in the halfcourt; he could move up to the top of this list in a couple seasons.
4. Steve Nash - LA Lakers
On the downside of his career, but still a very good point guard. Even at age 37, Nash averaged double-digit assists and tied a career high by shooting 53% from the field last season.
5. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
Not a natural point, but a great shooter and a good fit for what the Warriors like to run on offense. Curry is probably the best shooter at his position; he's shot 44% from behind the arc over his three seasons.
6. Tyreke Evans - Sacramento Kings
His numbers have dropped some, but at age 22 his potential is still sky high. Evans can do a little bit of it all averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal per game during his three year career. Biggest area with a need for improvement, his three-point shooting; he's shot just 25% for his career.
7. Ty Lawson - Denver Nuggets
Lawson, who didn't become a full time starter until last season, had a big year for the Nuggets. Lawson averaged 16.4 points, 6.6 assists, and shot 48% from the field last season, and found a way to take his game to another level with 19 points on 51% shooting in a seven game series with the Lakers.
8. Mike Conley - Memphis Grizzlies
Conley started his career off slowly, but has quietly become a pretty good point guard. The underrated point guard set a career high with 2.2 steals per game and tied his career high for assists with 6.5 per game. If Conley ever becomes a more consistent shooter (43%), he could move up this list.
9. Goran Dragic - Phoenix Suns
Dragic spent the first several seasons of his career as a backup to Steve Nash and later Kyle Lowry. When Dragic finally got a chance to start last season he made the most of it, averaging 18 points, 8.4 assists, while shooting 49% as a starter.
10. Ricky Rubio - Minnesota Timberwolves
Rubio shot a miserable 35% from the field, yet was still a very good point guard. The young Spanish point guard averaged 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals over 31 starts, but had his season ended by an injury in March. If Rubio ever gets to the point of being an average shooter, just 43% really, he will shoot up this board and could reach Steve Nash levels.
11. Jeremy Lin - Houston Rockets
Had a great February (20.9 points, 8.4 assists, 47% from the field), but fell off in March (14.6 points, 6.3 assists, 40% from the field). So which month of play represents the real Jeremy Lin? My guess is March, but probably somewhere in between. Over a full season I predict he'll average 14 points, 6 assists, 4 turnovers, and shoot 44% from the field.
12. Austin Rivers - New Orleans Hornets
Not a natural point guard, but will probably play the position for the Hornets after they re-signed Eric Gordon. Rivers was very good at creating his own shot and getting to the basket at Duke, but whether or not he can run an offense will have to be answered. Rivers has huge upside and will probably move past Lin within a couple seasons, but for now we'll keep him below since he hasn't proven anything at the NBA level.
13. Damian Lillard -Portland Trailblazers
Lillard was the top ranked point guard by most experts in this years draft, but like Rivers, he hasn't proven anything at the NBA level.
14/15. Mavericks/Jazz - The Jazz traded away Devin Harris and the Mavericks lost Jason Kidd and Jason Terry; whoever they start, I'm not sure they know, I'll rank below Lin for now.
I know some of you are big Jeremy Lin fans, but even the most blindly loyal supporter shouldn't find much fault with who is ahead of him on this list. As of now, Jeremy Lin is only ranked ahead of two rookies and two unknown starters for the Jazz and Mavericks; not exactly the player some fans and media members have made him out to be. For the record, I would have ranked Kyle Lowry 7th on this list before he was traded to Toronto.