A quick breakdown of the Jeremy Lin acquisition before I have to hop on a flight (updated with additional points.)
One – This was necessary: This move fills the shortage of play making that has plagued the Raptors all season. Kyle Lowry was the only player capable of creating efficient offense for both himself and his teammates, as Kawhi Leonard, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright all struggled in one facet or another. Lin is no savior, but he’s definitely serviceable, especially now that VanVleet will miss three weeks with a hand injury. Lin is a dependable veteran who knows how to create off the bench, which is what the Raptors have lacked all season.
Two – What he has left: Lin isn’t elite at any facet of the game, but he is well-rounded. He gets to the rim and draws fouls at an above-average rate thanks to his quick first step, he has a decent short game as he’s capable of hitting floaters and awkward learning jumpers, and he’s a reliable jump shooter both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot scenarios. He averaged 19.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists with a true-shooting percentage of 59.6 per-36 minutes playing with a bunch of rookies on the Hawks.
Three – A better fit: Wright was great in flashes, but his inconsistency drove Nick Nurse to cut his minutes and even bench Wright for a game. Wright was too shy – he was entirely comfortable in allowing VanVleet to dribble the air out of the ball, he could only score at the rim, he didn’t have a pull-up jumper, and he would pass up wide-open looks from deep. Wright is a better defender, and he’s capable of changing the game on both ends off the floor (mostly, when he plays against Kelly Oubre), but Lin’s floor is significantly higher and that’s what you want from a bench player, and he’s a better fit with the personnel.
Four – Settling into roles: Lin can play both the one and the two, which should free up VanVleet to play off the ball where he is most effective when he returns to the lineup. Lin’s ability to drive-and-kick should also create more catch-and-shoot chances for Norman Powell and OG Anunoby. Lin can also partner with both centers – Lin would run the pick-and-pop with Serge Ibaka, and function as a cutter with Marc Gasol. The second unit can finally function as its own entity with Lin running the offense, although I still believe the Raptors should stagger their lineups more often.
Five – Depth matters: … Not in the playoffs, but it definitely matters in the regular season while the Raptors remain in hot pursuit of the Bucks for the No. 1 seed. Lowry has battled a bad back all season, and his understudy in VanVleet experienced sympathy pains. Both players could use some rest ahead of the playoffs, which is yet another area in which Lin can help the Raptors. Granted, the team has one of the easiest remaining schedules in terms of both quality and frequency of play, but there will still be instances where Lowry and VanVleet can use a breather. Lin is a damn good insurance policy.
Six – This is clout: Lin approached the Hawks for a buyout – much like how Gasol waived his $1.3-million trade kicker – with the specific intention of joining the Raptors. Lin is as good as it gets in terms of buyout candidates – he’s willing to come off the bench, he’s a team player, he’s still in his prime, and he’s still productive – and he could have walked into a rotation spot on most teams in the league. Lin chose the Raptors because he saw this as his best chance to compete for the Finals, which is incredibly flattering. For a fan base that has long sought validation, this is hard proof that the perception of the Raptors is changing.
Seven – Culture matters: I’m certain that Toronto’s expansive Chinese communities played a part in Lin’s decision to join the team. Toronto has always sold itself as an international city, but few free agents saw the value in that aside from Hedo Turkoglu’s wife (Remember when he was the future at small forward? Now we have Kawhi). By acquiring Lin, the Raptors now reflect the city itself: They have fielded a player with a direct background from every continent over the last calendar year (Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka from Africa, Marc Gasol from Europe, Lin is first-generation Asian-American, Deng Adel is Australian, Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Nogueira from Brazil, Chris Boucher was born in St. Lucia before he immigrated to Montreal, and half the roster is North American).
Eight – Prepare for stans: Linsanity was seven years ago for the rest of the world, but Lin is still regarded as an icon for most Asians. If I may speak generally about my people, we are not particularly visible (seriously, try naming 10 famous Asians off the top of your head), which only makes the spotlight on Lin that much brighter. This means the Raptors gained a massive fan base, and all the consequences that come with it. You thought JV Hive was bad? China and the Chinese diaspora is 400 times the size of Lithuania. Remember when Markham fans went nuts after Lin hit that game-winner in Toronto on Valentine’s Day during the height of Linsanity? (Side note: Why the hell did Dwane Casey have Jose Calderon guarding Lin???) You’re going to see that same division within the fan base with some being Raptors fans and some strictly wanting Lin to succeed above all else. It won’t be long before fans start calling for Lin to start ahead of Kyle Lowry, and I’m sorry in advance.
Nine – More to come: The Raptors still have two more needs to address in the buyout market. The first is a shooter, and they’re apparently taking a flyer on Ben McLemore (I’m skeptical – he’s like bad Terrence Ross), and the second is a power forward who can rebound and defend. I feel for OG Anunoby and I fully believe in him, but he’s unreliable and the Raptors could use some insurance. A healthy Markieff Morris would be nice, and I would actually welcome his generally thorniness as an asset for a team in need of some nasty if Lowry can keep his fellow Philly native in check, but I wonder how Morris would affect Anunoby’s confidence.