Interesting Read from today's New York Times:
Knicks Know Lin’s Price, but Value? Not Exactly
Suzy Allman for The New York Times
After a dazzling start as an everyday player, the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin, left, slumped in late March.
By HOWARD BECK
What is the price for a point guard who averages 18.5 points and 7.6 assists?
What if those averages were accrued over just 26 games?
What if those were the only meaningful games in his N.B.A. career?
What if those games turned the player into a global phenomenon?
What is the going rate on potential? On fame?
That is to say: Just how much is Jeremy Lin worth?
An answer came Thursday: $28.8 million.
That was the value of a four-year contract tendered by the Houston Rockets, which Lin intends to sign when N.B.A. business resumes Wednesday.
This does not necessarily mean that Lin will leave New York, where he found instant stardom last season. To the contrary, the Knicks are fully expected to match the offer and keep Lin, as is their right under restricted-free-agency rules.
It will be an expensive decision.
Under the terms of the backloaded deal, Lin will make $5 million next season, $5.2 million in the second season and $9.3 million in each of the final two. The fourth year is a team option, so the true commitment is $19.5 million for three years.
Is Lin worth the price?
The question can be asked about most signings, but Lin, 23, is a special case: an undrafted, unknown, twice-waived player from Harvard who turned into a star, saved the Knicks’ season and then injured his knee after just seven weeks in the spotlight.
The résumé is incomplete, though certainly spectacular in parts. And Lin’s value goes far beyond the court — he is thought to be worth millions in sponsorships, sales and ratings.
But billboards do not win basketball games, and the Knicks are much more desperate for playmaking skills than they are for dollars. Their decision will be about basketball first (albeit with the luxury of James L. Dolan’s billions providing a hedge against any mistake).
Here is what the Knicks know about Lin: He is a savvy passer, skilled in the pick-and-roll, quick enough to get in the lane, strong enough to take contact in traffic. His jump shot is fair but improving. His defense is questionable. He is young, diligent and dedicated to his craft.
In Lin’s 26 games as an everyday player, he averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 assists — which would have ranked him among the top 10 point guards in both categories, if sustained over a full season. That is, of course, a very significant “if.”
Lin was dazzling in his first 10 games as the primary point guard, averaging 24.6 points and 9.2 assists while shooting 49.7 percent from the field (though he made 5.6 turnovers a game). The Knicks went 8-2.
Lin remained solid for the next seven games, averaging 16 points and 7.7 assists (and 3.9 turnovers), although his field-goal percentage slipped to 41.3. He bottomed out in a Feb. 23 loss in Miami, going 1 for 11 from the field against a Heat defense that was determined to shut him down.
Over his final nine games, Lin averaged a modest 13.6 points and 5.9 assists while shooting 39.1 percent. He had one 10-assist game in that span, and no 20-point games. By then, Lin was dealing with a partial tear in his left meniscus — an injury that was not publicly known at the time and eventually required surgery.
So were Lin’s late-March struggles a result of fatigue and injury? Or an indication that his February heroics were some sort of mirage?
The Knicks have examined Lin more closely than anyone, and they are still uncertain how to process the data. Lin is probably not a top-10 point guard, but could he be in the top 15? Top 20? Or in the bottom 10? Even the true believers are not sure.
Many rival scouts and executives (perhaps even most) remain skeptical, believing that Lin is destined for a bench role.
Daryl Morey, Houston’s general manager, is a notable exception. The Rockets briefly had Lin in December before waiving him for payroll reasons, and Morey remains convinced of his value. The offer sheet reflects that.
Still, this is far from the bidding war that some predicted when Lin was at his peak. No other team with salary-cap room made a hard push for Lin, or tried to create the sort of poison-pill deal that the Rockets offered.
Under the N.B.A.’s byzantine rules, any rival team could have offered Lin a contract with a third-year salary of $15 million, and more in Year 4. The Rockets stopped at $9.3 million, hoping that would be enough to dissuade the Knicks from matching while not overcommitting themselves.
If the Rockets get Lin, they are allowed to use his average salary, $7.2 million, for cap purposes, a workable figure for those three years. But if the Knicks keep Lin, his $9.3 million salary in 2014-15 will cost them many millions more in luxury-tax payments.
The Knicks had little choice but to let Lin set his own market value. The N.B.A.’s cap rules are again the culprit. While Houston could include those balloon payments, the most the Knicks were allowed to offer was about $23.6 million over four years. So for Lin to get full value, he needed another team to make an offer, and to force the Knicks to make a decision.
The Knicks will almost certainly match the offer. It is up to Lin to justify the investment.