Any time a team loses five in a row and is playing this poor offensively, you start to look for explanations as to why. But what I’m about to tell you is not a result of the current offensive woes nor the losing streak. I’ve felt this way ever since the Houston Rockets traded for James Harden prior to this season.
Harden is better off without Jeremy Lin on the floor.
This isn’t a knock on Lin at all; the two player’s styles just do not mesh well. Having watched just about every game this season, I can honestly say I’d rather have Toney Douglas as the starting point guard. There is not a doubt in my mind Lin offers more offensively if you take the two players in a vacuum, but Lin’s strengths are not being utilized with Harden as the main option.
Lin is only shooting 43 percent from the field and 28 percent from three. His skill set has never been his mid to long range jumpers, but with Harden controlling the ball most of the time Lin is forced to bet a set shooter at times. This is not at all his game. For him to be successful, he needs to be in control of the offense the majority of the time and play alongside perimeter players who are spot up shooters and can stretch the floor.
Douglas may only be shooting 40 percent overall, but he’s also shooting 40 percent from three-point land. His presence on the floor would open up the lane even further for Harden. Another key to him being more useful is his perimeter defense is worlds better than Lin’s. Lin has been a defensive liability, and Kevin McHale has gone away from him in the fourth quarter of close games at times as he is more willing to trust Douglas’ ability to shut down opposing guards.
Truth be told, both are better off without the other. They both have similar offensive styles in that their strength is getting to the basket and setting up their teammates. Both would benefit from playing with a spot up shooter as their teammate in the back court rather than the current situation. Case in point: the 38-point night Lin had against the San Antonio Spurs while Harden was in street clothes.
The Rockets have a huge decision on their hands; should they close up shop and look to move Lin, or weather the storm and see if the two can start to figure each other out? They will lean towards the latter. Daryl Morey has no delusions of a championship run this season, but they could be a super star front court player away from being serious contenders.
You listening Dwight Howard?
When the Rockets signed Lin, I was excited because I knew he would be the Rockets’ premier option and they would be a fun team to watch. When they traded for Harden I was ecstatic because they were making a concerted effort to turn Houston into an attractive destination for free agents. That said, I was always skeptical of their ability to conform to each other’s styles.
So far it hasn’t worked. Seeing as how they likely won’t get anyone near worthy enough to make a trade for, Lin and Harden will get this season to figure it out. If they haven’t by season’s end, it will be cause for concern.