In a season with a mixed bag of expectations, there was simply no way that Jeremy Lin could win this year. With the echoes of Linsanity still reverberating throughout every arena he plays in, the Harvard grad has been saddled with an unrealistic ceiling and criticism tied to his every move. Lin certainly didn't play like an All-Star this season, being moved from a starting role under head coach Byron Scott to coming off the bench as a reserve. However, regardless of when he entered the game and a system that didn't emphasize his strengths, he put up very solid numbers on a putrid LA team.
Lin's immense popularity notwithstanding, there are questions as to whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers will choose to retain their point guard. We poll the Silver Screen & Roll crew to see what they think:
What do you feel is a fair free market contract for Jeremy Lin?
Trevor Lane: When the Lakers traded for Jeremy Lin last summer, expectations were high as most assumed that getting away from Houston's Harden-heavy offense would give his career the shot in the arm it desperately needed. Unfortunately, Linsanity never really took off in Los Angeles, and Lin spent most of the season confirming the notion that he is best suited as a backup point guard in an offense that runs a lot of pick-and-roll sets. While he isn't quite a starting-quality guard, he is a fairly high level reserve, and with the rising salary cap I could see a team tossing an $18 million, 3-year deal at him.
Tom Fehr: It really depends situation to situation on what is "fair" for Jeremy Lin. I would imagine the team that will pursue him is in need of a solid backup point guard to help them immediately. I probably would not exceed 2 years in any contract with Lin if I was a GM. Not that he's bad--he's pretty decent, actually--I just don't see the need to commit to him for very long.
Harrison Faigen: $4-6 million? That is right around the approximate value for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and that seems about the correct value for Lin, a player who has demonstrated a real NBA skill set under the right circumstances. When allowed to run the offense through pick and rolls, Lin demonstrates a competency that is unfortunately too rare in backup point guards, making the correct decision the majority of the time when faced with a binary choice of whether to shoot or pass. When you factor in his rabid fanbase and marketing value in addition to the rising cap, that salary seems reasonable.
The CDP: $3-5M per year. At this point he's an average back-up point guard, maybe even a good one, but the days of Jeremy Lin commanding starter money should be over with this next contract. He probably has a lot more value than that off the court as a fan favorite - I just don't think his actual production merits anything over the mid-level exception.
Jameson Miller: Somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-7 million. He's a solid, smart player with plenty of talent and the right attitude, but there were enough games that saw him disappear for stretches or attempt too many poorly mapped out forays to the rim that trying to sum up Jeremy's year leaves me reaching for phrases like "pretty good"... "not bad"..."when properly utilized", etc. Contextual details and coaching fit aside, these are the words of the mid-level exception realm.
Ben Rosales: Perhaps a bit more than the full mid-level exception (around $5 million). This might depend on how the market deals with the insane cap bump next season, but Lin's a quality backup point guard who can be a solid part of a rotation and deserves to be paid as such. In the modern NBA, his skill set resonates practically everywhere and I wouldn't be surprised to see a team starved for guard depth bid a bit more than the MLE in an effort to get him.
What do you think are the mitigating factors in the Lakers pursuing him in free agency?
Trevor Lane: First and foremost, the Lakers need to figure out who they are selecting in the draft. If they go with a big like Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor then the window may be open for Lin to return, but should they go with D'Angelo Russell or Emanuel Mudiay it would appear that there simply won't be enough minutes or roster spots to bring him back. Even if they do end up drafting a big the Lakers need to make a decision on whether or not Lin is worth the salary that he will likely command in addition to the opportunity cost of losing out on other free agents in order retain him.
Tom Fehr: That there's not a need for him. Lakers aren't contending next season, or the one after that. See if you can develop Jordan Clarkson well and find a backup PG that can space the floor and possibly play with him for some good ol' combo guard fun (or, you know, D'Angelo Russell).
Harrison Faigen: Jordan Clarkson's burst onto the scene, the possibility of the Lakers selecting D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay in the draft, and the team likely not being in a position to be competitive next year probably make a medium priced backup like Lin a waste of resources. It is time for the Lakers to wave goodbye to most of the members of this franchise worst squad, with Lin among that group.
The CDP: There's a few things to consider, but first and foremost is the depth chart. The Lakers found a gem last year with Jordan Clarkson and they should continue to give him extended run as the incumbent starter. Assuming they draft a big, the next question is who they will be picking up as a free agent - can they get an upgrade in the market? Most of the top PG prospects (Dragic, Jackson) are either likely to resign or out of the Lakers' price range. Will they go for someone like Steve Blake or Cory Joseph instead? The final question here is Byron Scott, who famously hated the Jeremy Lin experience and stopped playing him at points throughout the season. Is Byron open to having J-Lin around again? If not, I don't see the point.
Jameson Miller: The emergence of Jordan Clarkson, the draft, and free agency. In a perfect world, the Lakers would be able to see how free agency and the draft shake out, then decide if they can bring Lin back into the fold; but of course, that might not be the case. If a playoff team in need of backcourt depth drops a tasty deal at Lin's feet while the Lakers are shuffling through their options, I'd imagine he walks. There's also Jeremy's relationship with Byron Scott to consider. Though Byron v. Jeremy is a bit of a bummer dramatically speaking—especially in comparison to Magic squeezing out Paul Westhead or Kobe providing limitless literary fodder for Phil Jackson—it still matters, and the two didn't always see eye to eye.
Ben Rosales: Byron Scott. That's the big elephant in the room. Jordan Clarkson's presence renders Lin a luxury to a certain extent, but the two demonstrated that they could play together and I never got the sense that Lin begrudged Clarkson his place in the rotation as the season went on. The draft might also render this a moot point, not necessarily with the Lakers going with a dark horse candidate at #2 in D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay, but rather the team ending up with a backup point guard later in the draft such as Delon Wright, Terry Rozier, or Andrew Harrison. If Lin will be on the Lakers next season, it will (and should) be as Clarkson's backup, so the presence of a prospect in the rotation with that exact same role would mean he's superfluous. Similarly, the Lakers could find themselves, after the dust settles in free agency, without sufficient cap room to sign Lin or with his replacement. All this said, the biggest obstacle still remains Byron. It took him an entire season to figure out that Lin kind of needed to be used in heavy pick-and-roll situations to be effective and to be fair, Lin did flourish, spectacularly at times, after the All-Star break. That probably isn't enough to overcome what would be some rather justified antipathy towards Byron, although we'll see how things play out.
Do you feel that the Lakers should bring Jeremy Lin back next year?
Trevor Lane: Jeremy Lin is not a bad player at all, but his value is diminished playing in Byron Scott's offense. If I were Jeremy Lin I would be praying that Mike D'Antoni lands a coaching job somewhere and then sign with that team because D'Antoni's offense is the perfect fit for him. From the Lakers side of things, Lin not only isn't a great fit with Byron Scott but he also is somewhat redundant, as both he and Clarkson are attacking guards who excel when running the pick and roll. Unfortunately for Lin, Clarkson is not only the better player but he is also much cheaper next season. Lin also struggled considerably when playing alongside Kobe Bryant last season, which is a bad omen for his potential return to LA. The only real benefit to bringing Lin back instead of looking elsewhere would be if it kept the Lakers from signing Rajon Rondo, and that's just not enough of a reason to sign a player to a long-term deal. The Lakers should thank Jeremy Lin for his services and amicably part ways.
Tom Fehr: Well, as I'm sure you can guess by my previous answer, no. I wouldn't be upset if they brought him back on a 1 year or 1+1 deal, but I probably wouldn't do it, and I doubt the Lakers will. Jeremy Lin was brought on because they got a great deal of taking his salary for one year in exchange for a late first rounder. Lakers should take that as a win, try to pick a good young player, and probably move on from Lin.
Harrison Faigen: That thing I said about Lin being a real NBA player under the right circumstances? Those circumstances are certainly not a Byron Scott coached team that likely left Lin with permanent tire marks on his body from all the times Scott threw him under the bus and then backed it over him. I remain a fan of Jeremy Lin's game. Just not on this team, with this coach. He got to LA one year too late.
The CDP: I don't think so. I'm honestly not sure the Lakers have a lot of good options here, but I'd rather have a veteran leader like Steve Blake or take a flier on young talent than bring back Jeremy Lin. He showed flashes in LA and certainly has the talent to play point guard in this league. However, Byron Scott is still the coach of this team and Lin doesn't seem like a good fit with this version of the purple and gold. I'm also afraid of bringing Rajan Rondo into town, so I have more questions than answers about the Lakers backcourt at this point.
Jameson Miller: Probably not. I like Jeremy, he's good. If I had to write a five-word player profile for him, it would be: "He's got the right idea". I just don't think the timing and fit are going to make a return very likely. Lin's (admittedly low-octane) clashes with his coach, and the fact that his desires and goals as a player might not mesh with the developmental arc of this Laker team all point to Lin donning different colors in October.
Ben Rosales: It depends? Drafting a point guard makes the answer to this question a definite no, and the next mitigating circumstance would be how the Lakers end up spending their available cap space in free agency. A 30% max player (LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Goran Dragic, etc.) would wipe out the needed space to meet Lin's likely asking price -- let us make the safe assumption that the Lakers renounce Lin's cap hold and lose his Bird rights in order to open up as much cap space as humanely possible this summer; as such, re-signing Lin would require eating into the Lakers' available cap space -- but in the much more likely event that the Lakers end up with someone closer to the 25% max (practically every player expected to be a restricted free agent, DeMarre Carroll, etc.), they would still have a healthy chunk of change to throw around. The issue then becomes whether Lin's worth a significant part of that remaining cap space, something that might appear dubious since the current roster is starved for wing depth and other options would better address the Lakers' weaknesses in that regard. That noted, the market could be unkind to the Lakers and they might end up with a fair amount of unused space. With the team slated to draft one of Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns at the top of the draft, there are worse things than having a competent point guard to help shepherd their early development. There simply are quite a lot of steps we need to cross to get to that point, however.