The more I think about this, the more I am convinced the Knicks will be crazy not to match Jeremy Lin.
I get that the three-year, $25 million offer sheet Jeremy Lin signed with Houston is a pretty big number. I get that the poison pill third year, $14.8 million, is going to be a stiff jab to the Knicks in the form of a $25.9 million luxury tax penalty (which mean’s Lin would cost them $40.7 million in that third year). At first glance, that sounds tremendously high for Lin. But all things considered, it’s an acceptable risk. And the Knicks may end up losing more by not keeping Lin than they would by matching.
Before I get into the reasons I’d say keep Lin, can we just pause for a moment and think about the oddity of the Knicks suddenly be concerned about overpaying a guy? Are you kidding me? We aren’t talking about the San Antonio Spurs here, a small-market team that makes a habit out of shrewd management. This is the Knicks, experts at smoking money. This is the same team that gave Jerome James a five-year, $30 million contract. The same team that locked Allan Houston up for SIX YEARS, $100 MILLION at age 30. This is the same team that traded for Stephon Marbury at the end of his career and swallowed the remaining $76 million of his contract. And, by the way, the coach that year, Larry Brown, was getting upwards of $10 million to produce 23 wins. The Knicks doled out $20.2 million between 2008 and 2010 to Eddy Curry, and he played a total of 74 minutes in 10 games.
Jeremy Lin has already given the Knicks more bang for their buck than either of those guys (save for Allan Houston). New York’s sudden bout of fiscal responsibility aside, there are some good reasons why the Knicks should match.
* Jeremy Lin will make the mid-level the first two years. That’s less than Ryan Anderson, Landry Fields and Jeff Green got, and about a third of what Eric Gordon landed. Lin’s first two years are for about the same money that Louis Williams, Andre Miller and Jason Terry will get. Based on Lin’s age and production, no way you can say that’s not a great deal. Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games last season. His Per 48 minute stats were 26 points and 11 assists. Even with his turnovers, that is really good production.
If Lin continues his development, his $14.8 million third year will still be high. But no doubt there will still be non-tax teams willing to acquire him (Houston) and his big expiring contract (and his fan appeal). So, feasibly, the Knicks could get a great bargain last year, when he made $762,000, and a great bargain the next two years, assuming Lin matches his production. If at that point they decide he still isn’t worth the money, then the Knicks can trade him before the end of the third year and avoid the tax penalty. That’s a good deal.
Or, if they’re really serious about not wasting money, they can amnesty Amar’e Stoudemire. (Forgot they already used their amnesty on Chauncey Billups. Wow.)
* Lin gives the Knicks something to go to. Without Lin, you can count on the Knicks relying on Carmelo Anthony isos, Amar’e Stoudemire mid-range jumpers and J.R. Smith 3-pointers. What Lin does give the Knicks is something reliable to go to. Lin last season averaged the third-most points on isolation plays (behind Chris Paul and James Harden). And get this, only Steve Nash and Stephen Curry had a higher field goal percentage on jumpers off the dribble (minimum 90 jumpers).
Lin running the pick and roll is perhaps the Knicks most-reliable offense. At the very least, it’s a weapon they can use when their offense bogs down.
* Lin is 23. To assume he won’t get better is kind of silly. At the very least, he’ll get better at what he does best. And that’s already pretty good
* Linsanity alone is probably enough. With Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets infringing on the Knicks territory, it would seem Lin’s marketing appeal would be even more valuable to the Knicks now.
* The addition of Raymond Felton helps. The big question for Lin is can he keep this up over a whole season, can he do it as the full-time starter. With Felton, he doesn’t have to. He has someone to share the load with, whether he starts or comes off the bench. It will cut down his turnovers and figures to improve his defense and offensive efficiency.
By no means is Lin the perfect player. Nor do I think he’s the difference between a title or no. But matching his contract far outweighs not. If they let Lin walk, not only will they get nothing for one of the greatest finds in team history, but they will lose out on and off the court. They have three years to figure out what to do with that third year. In the meantime, they get a pretty valuable asset for $5 million a year. The only reason not to match him is the third-year money, and since when did the Knicks care about that?