NOTE TO READER: I know this is a very long article, but if you’re going to read it, I really ask you to read it all the way through, because you won’t really have a full understanding of what I’m trying to say until you reach the very end of the article. I know there will be moments when you’ll be tempted to just skim through everything, thinking that you know what I’m going to say and jump to conclusions. But I urge you not to do that. The argument I’m trying to make is built up slowly and painstakingly brick-by-brick. You won’t really grasp the point I’m trying to make unless you read the ENTIRE article. I promise, it’ll be worth your while. And if you are or suspect yourself to be a Jeremy Lin Hater/Doubter and actually read through the entire article, then you have my highest respect.
In ancient times, people believed that the world was flat. When scientific evidence proved that the world was round, many people still held steadfast to their beliefs. This is because they’ve always felt this way, so their beliefs had a great deal of energy. As such, they ignored scientific evidence and hung onto their strongly held beliefs. I can’t really blame the flat earth people, because they had plenty of physical evidence that they can see with their own eyes, which showed to them clearly that the earth is flat. I mean, when they looked around them, it was clear that they were standing on a flat surface. Nothing in their everyday lives showed them that the earth was round. This is because they were just microscopic specs on a gigantic ball–that was continuously rotating, no less!
I can’t have the same amount of sympathy for Jeremy Lin haters/doubters, however. Like the flat earth people, Jeremy Lin haters/doubters (JLHDs for short) have strong beliefs about what a good basketball player should look like and what credentials they should have coming into the NBA. They can’t wrap their conventional minds around the fact that an undrafted Asian American kid out of Harvard, who’s been to the D-League, passed from one NBA team to another only to sit at the very end of the bench, can possibly perform at a high level. An example is the infamous rant from Stephen A. Smith, an ESPN analyst, on how Jeremy Lin is a “marginal” player. Really?! A marginal player? Really? And your sole job is to watch NBA games and NBA players and analyze their game, presumably objectively? And you have every resource available to you to help you in your efforts and that’s what you come up with? Really?!
I feel stupid to even lay out some of the clear evidence that shows Jeremy Lin is anything but an average player. But I feel like I have to in painstaking detail. Lets see. There’s the whole first 7-game starts, in which Jeremy Lin (229 points/86 assists) not only surpassed, but demolished all time greats in the Point Guard position when it comes to points and assists: Magic Johnson (129 points/49 assists), Isiah Thomas (172 points/45 assists), John Stockton (68 points/75 assists). You know any marginal players that have done this?
Here’s Lin’s very basic stat line for 2011-2012 season: 14.6 PPG/6.2 APG. But these stats need to come with a bunch of asterisks, because they include games in which Lin didn’t play meaningful minutes (we’re talking single-digit minutes here). The only fair way to calculate Jeremy Lin’s stats for the 2011-2012 season is if you only count the games in which Lin played significant minutes (i.e., from February 4th game against New Jersey to the March 24th game against Detroit). So Lin’s real points and assists statistics for the 2011-2012 season is: 18.5 PPG / 7.7 AGP.
Taking just these two very basic non-controversial stats, lets see how Lin ranks among the following “above average” starting point guards in the league: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, John Wall, Brandon Jennings, Jose Calderon, Kyle Lowry, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, Kemba Walker, Jeff Teague, Jason Kidd, Stephen Curry, Raymond Felton, and Andre Miller. I know I’ll get some flack for not including Monta Ellis. I included Brandon Jennings instead, because it was much easier stat-wise, since Monta Ellis’s stats are divided between his time with Golden State and his time with Milwaukee. Also, he’s been playing the SG position, in addition to PG position, at Milwaukee. I’m sure I’ve left out your favorite point guard, but we’d be here all day if we keep debating the list. The point is not who’s on or off this list, the point is to show where Jeremy Lin stands within this list of representative “above average” starting point guards in the league in 2011-2012:
Lin ranks 7th in PPG and 10th in APG among a list of over 20 “above average” point guards in the league. So at least based on the two most basic statistics for a point guard, Lin ranks above average among a list of “above average” starting point guards. I’m no math genius, but I’d say that’s another piece of evidence that shows Lin is not a marginal player.
But lets take this one step further. Lin did this in his second year in the league. So I think it would only be fair if we see how these point guards compare to Lin when they were in comparable stages in their careers. And to be completely fair, I’m not going to just compare Lin’s statistics with all these players in their second season in the league. I’m going to only compare Lin’s statistics with these point guard’s stats in the first season in which they logged an average of over 30 minutes per game (MPG), so we have comparable data and are not comparing Lin’s stats with stats of these point guards when they were playing single digit minutes. For some players, such as Derrick Rose or Chris Paul, I used their rookie season, since they were in the starting line up in their first year, so I consider that comparable to Lin’s data that I’ve used. But just so you see that I’m fair, for a lot of the other players, I’ve used data AFTER their sophomore year (so presumably, they’ve had more experience than where Lin is currently), because that’s when they started logging significant minutes. For example, for Rajon Rondo, I used statistics from his 3rd year in the NBA. For Steve Nash, I was even more generous. Even though Steve Nash logged 31.7 MPG in his 3rd season (FYI his stats were 7.9 PPG / 5.5 APG), I didn’t used those mediocre stats, because I noticed that in his 4th year, his MPG was reduced to 27. It wasn’t until his 5th season that he started logging over 30 MPG consistently. So for Steve Nash, I used stats from his 5th year. There are many other examples of me using stats for players AFTER their 2nd year. I just chose to highlight the examples from Nash and Rondo. So here is where Jeremy Lin stands among these point guards when comparing his statistics with their statistics when they were at similar junctures in their careers:
Lin is tied for 1st with Kyrie Irving in PPG, you know, the 2012 Rookie of the Year. He’s ranked 7th in APG. So there’s more evidence for you that when looking at the most basic stats for Lin and putting those stats into context by comparing them with those of the current “above average” point guards when they were in similar junctures in their careers, Lin’s stats are, dare I say, elite. Or at the very least far from average.
Even though I’m someone who doesn’t believe that stats tell the whole story, I went through the trouble of doing all of this, so that we have at least some basis to start out with. The reason I’m not a big believer in stats is that you can find a stat to support virtually anything you want to say. It’s just another weapon people use to win mindless arguments back and forth that lack any real meaning or substance. For example, I could have boosted Lin’s status by talking about his stats during clutch time and all of that. Really obscure stuff. Instead, I just decided to stick to the most basic stats so we don’t lose site of the bigger picture. I’m not saying that stats are bad. I’m just saying that people abuse stats by taking them out of context only to be able to say that they’re right, even though they know that they’re wrong on the things that really matter.
SIDE NOTE: An example of how to use statistics the right way is how Ed Weiland, the FedEx delivery driver and numbers hobbyist, crunched data in a unique and objective way to show that Jeremy Lin was one of the top players coming out of college in 2010. I’m not saying this, because he supports my views. I’m just mentioning it so people won’t think that I’m some lunatic who doesn’t care about numbers and, so the reasoning goes, I must only think Jeremy Lin is good based on my emotions. No, my friend. The argument I’m slowly building is that in actuality JLHDs are the ones who are driven predominantly by their emotions. They keep repeating that Jeremy Lin is an average player as they close their ears and eyes, refusing to see anything else that contradicts their views, because they have such strong emotions built up about it.
Of course the JLHDs are going to point out that I didn’t include his turnovers, so I must be biased. I’ve addressed Lin’s turnovers in my previous posts, but let me just take a moment to speak on this misunderstood subject some more. As I’ve mentioned, everyone should be a little weary of stats–especially when they’re taken out of meaningful context. To me, turnovers are one of those stats that really need to be produced with the necessary context in order to convey any real meaning. You can’t just talk about turnovers in isolation. I’ve covered this in my previous posts, so I’ll just touch on it here. The number of turnovers a point guard has, by itself, doesn’t really say much. You need to take it a couple of levels further and put it within the context of their level of aggression, their usage factor, etc. For example, a point guard can have a very low turnover number, like 1 or 2, yet there’s no way of knowing if he’s a good point guard or not. He maybe just standing around the perimeter passing the ball from side-to-side most of the time. And conversely, a high turnover number doesn’t necessarily mean the player is terrible. For example, Allen Iverson had high turnover numbers. This is because Iverson is a hyper-aggressive guard who’s constantly attacking and creating (mostly for himself). He also had a high usage factor, meaning that the ball is in his hands most of the time. This is somewhat similar to how Jeremy Lin plays–especially under D’Antoni. The ball was in Jeremy’s hands most of the time and he was constantly attacking the defense trying to create almost equally for himself and his teammates. So, no, I’m not going to include turnover numbers, without putting them within the context that they need to be put in to really understand them. And doing so is, admittedly, above my pay grade.
Also, people tend to over-exaggerate how harmful turnovers are to a team. Yes, turnovers are bad. They’re very bad. But people have an attitude like they’re the end of the world–especially when it comes to “proving” how terrible of a player Jeremy Lin is. Let me put turnovers in context. Do turnovers turn into automatic 2-points for the opposing team? No. In fact, I would venture to guess that it only happens 50% of the time, if that. But admittedly, I’m just pulling that number out of my ass. When they aren’t converted into points by the opposing team, then they’re not really that much more harmful than missing a shot, are they? And by the way, opposing teams can convert missed shots into buckets, too. So I hope I’ve opened your eyes a little into all the over-hyped turnover talks–especially when it comes to Jeremy Lin.
I’m not saying that Jeremy Lin doesn’t need to work on protecting the ball better. He does. But to constantly reference only his turnover numbers as “clear evidence” that he’s an average point guard or that he’s “garbage” is clear evidence that you’re cherry picking one or two things that support your strongly held beliefs and ignoring everything else that doesn’t. Need I remind you again that this is the definition of bias? You’re “analyzing” Jeremy Lin purely based on your emotions. You’re not being objective. I love how JLHDs constantly refer to Jeremy Lin fans as “idiots”, etc. as if the very act of calling someone else an idiot makes you so intelligent. They hang onto the feeling of superiority (maybe because it is the only time in their lives that they think they can feel superior) thinking that they know so much more about the game, because they were basketball fans, before Jeremy Lin. But I think JLHDs need to be honest with themselves and really think about whether or not they’re doing the very same things that they call Jeremy Lin fans “idiots” for doing. They over-hype his weaknesses and blind themselves to any information that goes against their strongly held biases. It’s okay. No one is watching right at this moment as you read this. You can be honest with yourself. If you can’t at least be honest with yourself right at this moment as I’m giving you the perfect opportunity to do so, you have to ask yourself when you ever will be honest with yourself. I know it’s painful to admit when you’re wrong. No one likes doing that. But if you never admit when you’re wrong, then how are you ever going to learn anything new? How are you ever going to grow as a person? I hate to break it to you, but no one is right all the time–no matter how many people you keep calling idiots to make yourself feel superior. It doesn’t work that way. There’s a nagging thing called the truth that gets in the way. It’s easy to hang on to false beliefs. The more difficult thing is to be a bigger person and admit that you’re wrong to open yourself up to learning something new. Anyway, enough self-help. Onto my analysis.
I’m sure JLHDs will point out that 26 games is such a small sample size to judge anything on. I think that’s a somewhat fair criticism. But what other data can I draw upon. I’m using all data available to me. It’s not like I’m cherry picking the data and only picking 26 of Jeremy Lin’s best games. I’m just using data from all the games in which Jeremy Lin has logged significant minutes. It’s not Jeremy Lin’s fault that he didn’t get a chance to play any meaningful minutes until those 26 games. So are you going to penalize him because he wasn’t given a chance? Also, some of the people who point out the small sample size are, at the same time, too quick to point out how Jeremy Lin was completely exposed in the ONE game against Miami. Somehow that ONE game suddenly becomes a SIGNIFICANT sample size to judge Jeremy Lin’s weaknesses. So I want to address that Miami game and, once again, give it some context. It occurred on a back-to-back (not making excuses, just giving context). It’s funny how JLHDs leave out the fact that every Knicks player struggled in that Miami game. Not just Lin. In fact Baron Davis played far worse then Jeremy Lin. Everyone on the Knicks struggled in that game, so why does Jeremy Lin get all the attention? It was also against one of the toughest defensive teams in the league who had a mission to shut Jeremy Lin down. Even if Jeremy Lin was the only one from the Knicks who struggled in that game, it’s still just ONE game! I mean, Carmelo, who’s raison d’etre is to score at a high level had so many games (NOT just one or two or a few or several) before April in which he shot around 35 percent and scored under 20 points, including against sub-500 teams. Does that make Carmelo garbage? Nonsense! I’m not trying to hate on Melo by using him as an example. It just seems to make sense, since I figured many JLHDs would be familiar with Melo’s stats and would immediately know what I’m talking about. Let me just pull out one game to further illustrate my point. On March 6th, against Dallas, Melo scored 6 points, shot 2 for 12, which is 16.7%. Wow, Dallas must own Melo, right? Nonsense! I’ll just give one more example, just to open your eyes a bit so you can see how ridiculous you sound. On March 22, 1986, Michael Jordan scored 8 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This must mean that we need to re-think calling Jordan the best player of all time, huh? Nonsense. JLHDs will argue that these examples are different. These guys have already “proven” themselves. Jeremy Lin hasn’t. Well, you haven’t even given Jeremy Lin the chance to prove himself when you jump all over him for that one bad game against an elite defensive team and call him garbage solely because of that ONE game, even though he played at a high level before and after that game pretty consistently I might add.
Now I want to put the 26 game sample size into context. Again, JLHDs will argue that it’s too small of a sample size, so Jeremy Lin is still not “proven”. That’s another term that they love to throw around. Sure, he demolished hall-of-famers with his stats in his first 7 starts, but he’s still not “proven”. Sure, he’s turned around a team that was destined to not even make the playoffs to give them a 7-game winning streak and a jolt of energy by making all his teammates better, but he’s still not “proven”. They also love to add that the winning streak was against weak teams.
Lets talk about that 7-game winning streak why don’t we? Rather than cherry pick only the things that made the 7-game winning streak a piece of cake (really, there’s only ONE thing: that it was against mostly weak teams), why don’t we look at the entire context of the 7-game winning streak. First of all, Jeremy Lin, being the last guy on the bench didn’t get to scrimmage much during the little practice that the Knicks had in the shortened season. In other words, he wasn’t groomed to be an “above average” player, so he didn’t get the training that many first round picks and even second round picks have the luxury of receiving. He essentially walked onto the court completely cold on February 4th to play the Nets (unless JLHDs want to count the 7 minutes that he played the night before against Boston). During the winning streak, the two superstars of the Knicks (Melo and Stat) were absent for most of it. So Lin did it with more or less a bunch of scrubs (except for Chandler, who’s not an offensive threat). Remember, Novakane didn’t exist before Linsanity and Shump was only known as the guy that didn’t make it into the Rising Stars Challenge at the time. He was still trying to carve out an identity for himself. When you look at this entire context, it’s really mind-blowing what Jeremy Lin did. Never mind above average, what Jeremy Lin did, when taking into context all of this reaches super-human status and I’m not exaggerating. Just think about it. He wasn’t groomed to play at any level, he didn’t get much practice, he walked onto the court cold and he was asked to play arguably the toughest position (which he didn’t play until the NBA) and enhance the playing level of a bunch of scrubs to win 7-games in a row and turn around a team that was destined to not even make the playoffs. And, by the way, he did all of this with the eyes of the entire world on him and every team making it their highest priority to shut him down (to be precise Lin didn’t really have the eyes of the entire world on him and didn’t become a target for other teams until the middle of the winning streak onwards to D’Antoni’s resignation). So why don’t JLHDs talk about the 7-game winning streak in this entire context? Instead, they fixate on just ONE piece of data: that it happened against mostly weak teams. Also, average players don’t bounce back from poor first half performances to have the courage and ice in the veins to calmly take the last second shot with the entire world watching to win the game (Lin vs. Raptors). Lin possesses the rare type of courage that great players have–this is what makes him so deadly during clutch time. Average players just don’t have this type of courage and composure.
Now lets talk about the “weak teams” piece of data. Every team during this season probably had a similarly easy 7-game stretch, so why didn’t this 7-game winning streak happen to another point guard who was playing with a bunch of “scrubs”? (Before JLHDs start giving random examples of teams that had 7+ wining streaks, first ask yourself if the point guard was the primary catalyst for that winning streak and if so, did the point guard play with a bunch of Scrubs. Inevitably, JLHDs will give the Spurs as an example anyway, because JLHDs aren’t great at listening to what anyone else has to say, so let me just address that now. Do you consider the lineup that Parker had to work with a bunch of scrubs? If so, then okay, so you have Tony Parker as an example. I think we can all agree that Tony Parker is a pretty good point guard, so Lin is in good company. In other words, it couldn’t have happened to just any average point guard).
Let me take this one step further. A situation that’s somewhat similar to the one that Jeremy Lin faced during the 7-game winning streak is one that John Wall faced the entire season (i.e., point guard playing with a bunch of scrubs). So how come John Wall never put together a 7-game winning streak? I’m sure they had an easy 7-game stretch somewhere in the season. Forget the winning streak, how come John Wall didn’t get the kind of numbers that Jeremy Lin put up during the 7-game winning streak, when Lin played with a bunch of scrubs and had permission to really play his game? John Wall had an entire season to put together these numbers and couldn’t for any 7-game stretch. And if you used Tony Parker as an example for the 7-game winning streak, because you claim the Spurs are a bunch of scrubs, then how come a great and proven point guard like Tony Parker also wasn’t able to match the kind of numbers that Lin put together for a 7-game stretch that gave Lin the Player of the Week award (by the way, average players don’t go around winning Player of the Week awards)? Lets take a look at the basic stats that Lin put up during the 7-game winning streak, in which he played with a bunch of “scrubs”: 24.4 PPG / 9.14 APG.
Average players may have one or two good games here and there, but they don’t string together 7 straight good performances. Actually, if you’re talking about personal performances, Jeremy Lin continued performing at a high level for three more games beyond the 7-game winning streak, including a 28-points / 14-assists game against Dallas. So we’re talking a streak of 10 games in which Lin performed at a peak level if you want to be fair to Lin. Average players don’t do this.
Now, lets put some context around the 26 game sample size. Admittedly, it’s not a big sample size. But just think about what happened during these 26 games to the Knicks and you may be surprised how good of a sample those 26 games become. The Knicks essentially had at least three mini seasons during those 26 games:
- “Season One”: 7-game winning streak, in which everything was clicking and it seemed like the Knicks had solved their problems
- “Season Two”: Superstars returned disrupting the chemistry, resulting in a 6-game losing streak, the Knicks are once again outside looking in.
- “Season Three”: Coach fired, new coach changes the dynamics on the team and forces Lin to change his game on the fly
Yes, the 26 games is a small sample size, but Jeremy and his team also went through a lot during those 26 games so that 26-game sample size is deceivingly small. Despite huge ups and downs, as well as the upheaval that comes with a coaching change, Jeremy Lin was still able to put together 18.5 PPG and 7.7 APG. Elite numbers when compared to numbers put up by “above average” point guards during comparable stages in their lives. And to give even more context, Jeremy Lin performed at a high level in a position that he hadn’t played until he came to the NBA. He also did it for a team that had problems with the Point Guard position with many players failing in the position before Lin took over. If Lin is an average player, he would have failed just like all the rest. Instead, when given just ONE chance, Lin rose.
Jeremy Lin is not an average player. If you still think so after I’ve carefully and painstakingly laid out everything for your convenience, then I would suspect that you have much bigger problems than being a JLHD. I suggest you look at other areas in your life in which you hold onto strong biases and only cherry pick things that support your views and ignore everything else, no matter how overwhelming the data. You can choose to hear what I’m saying right now at this very moment when no one’s looking, or you can go ahead and block them out like you always have. That’s completely on you.
For those who are sincerely interested in going beyond their biases, but still somehow can’t, let me help make things easier on you. I’ll attempt to lift the blind fold by having you do a mental exercise. If Jeremy Lin hadn’t been partly discriminated against when he graduated high school. A good basketball program would have picked him up, based on his high school performance (e.g., leading his school to a State Championship). If he had gotten into a good college basketball program, like he deserved to be, he would have been drafted, maybe even in the first round. Had he been drafted in the first round, he wouldn’t have been sitting at the end of the benched or been passed from one NBA team to another. Or we can forget this entire alternative scenario and just think about how if NBA scouts had looked at Lin’s stats in college in an objective way (i.e., the way Ed Weiland did) and picked him very early in the draft based on the conclusion that he was one of the best college players in 2010, then Jeremy Lin would have immediately been validated as some sort of prodigy. I mean, only prodigies get picked that early in the draft, coming out of a no-name basketball program, right? This guy must be out of this world good! Expectations of Lin would have been pretty high from the get go.
If all of this had been the case, then anyone would feel silly for continually questioning what he has done and keep wanting more and more proof if he’s for real. Or still calling him “average” even at the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Instead, people would point to Jeremy Lin’s performance as clear evidence of why he got picked in the first round and, moreover, they’ll take the 26-game sample size and extrapolate it out into the future and say that Lin will become one of the best point guards in the league. I mean, there’s clear evidence. He’s already surpassed all-time great point guards in his first 7 starts? What more evidence do you want? He’s a proven point guard. JLHDs might argue that everyone has to prove themselves and so Jeremy Lin is no different. And to that, I say that’s just making a comment that sounds good, but doesn’t have much bearing on reality. Just go back to the mental exercise I just had you do and you’ll get what I mean. If Jeremy Lin was picked early in the draft like he should have been had circumstances been different and performed the way he has performed even in the short amount of time, do you think anyone would still say that he’s unproven? If you still think so, then I’m not sure you’re being completely objective. Jeremy Lin wasn’t picked in the first round because he was overlooked–it wasn’t because he lacked the ability. In other words, Jeremy Lin’s lack of credentials has mostly to do with things outside of himself. But, yet, JLHDs are still letting those very things that caused Lin to be overlooked prevent them from recognizing Lin’s innate talents. Does that make sense, now? Any light bulb moments? I don’t know why no one seems to be able to see this.
I know it’s hard to admit when you’re wrong. Just know that it’s hard for anyone. Not just you. This is why only critics in Jeremy Lin’s past have come out to say that they were wrong about Jeremy Lin. Because it’s easier to admit that you’re wrong when some time has passed. As a result, the list of Lin converts continues to grow. I think it’s been well documented from scouts and coaches at Stanford to Houston management, etc. I don’t need to dwell on that. So it’s only a matter of time when the pain of being wrong for JLHDs will shrink with time and they’ll be able to admit that Lin is at least a top 10 point guard in the NBA.
SIDE NOTE: I like to be completely honest, so I’ll confess my concerns for Jeremy Lin’s future, with respect to his individual performance. One concern I have is his conditioning and if he’ll be able to go through a full season without injuries. He gets banged up so much, because of his hyper-aggressive style of play that his conditioning is an important part of his game that I’ll be watching carefully. Another concern is that if Jeremy Lin stays with the Knicks, which is very likely, then Woodson is going to turn him into primarily a passer and essentially take the “Linsanity” out of Jeremy Lin in order to achieve his primary (if not sole) goal of solving the debate on whether or not Melo and Stat can co-exist. I’ve written about this ad nauseum, so I won’t go any further. The reason I’m, admittedly, overly sensitive about this is that JLHDs cherry pick every little thing to bring Jeremy Lin down. So if Lin’s numbers go down next season, which it will if he stays with the Knicks, then they will say that he was just a fluke and feel validate. It’ll be too much to ask JLHDs to look at the context of what caused Lin’s numbers to go down–that it was the coach that forced him to change his game–and that Lin could still put up big numbers if he was permitted to. No. They’ll just say that they were right all along. That Lin is just an overrated fluke and that Linsanity was all media hype. For the JLHD’s own sake, I don’t want this to happen, because they’ll feel like they were right to hang onto their strongly held biases and will lose one of their biggest opportunities to learn something valuable.