There are plenty of winners in the news Monday that Jeremy Lin accepted a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks, and will join the Toronto Raptors this week. For the Hawks, they got precisely what they hoped for out of Lin — mentoring for Trae Young, who loved playing with Lin, and with a buyout, showing other NBA veterans that as Lloyd Pierce keeps building in Atlanta, the team won’t stand in the way of players with a chance to help playoff teams and their own upcoming free agency.
And let’s be clear: this transaction will help the Toronto Raptors tremendously, and help Jeremy Lin get paid this summer, when his three-year, $36 million contract expires.
Let’s start with the Raptors. Even before the injury news on Fred VanFleet, Lin represented a clear upgrade in a number of areas for the minutes at point guard spelling Kyle Lowry. The fact itself that Lin will be playing in Nick Nurse’s offense in the Lowry role, a ball-dominant one spot that is tailor-made for what Lin does best.
But consider also the strengths Lin brings that far outpace what VanFleet has posted so far this season. Lowry is an elite finisher, in efficiency if not volume — 18.1 percent of his attempts are inside of three feet from the hoop, and he’s shooting 64.9 percent on those attempts. VanFleet gets to the basket more — 25.2 percent of his attempts from inside three feet — but he’s making just 50.3 percent of them, a huge dropoff from Lowry. Lin? 30.3 percent of his attempts are inside of three feet, and he’s making 62.4 percent of those attempts. He remains one of the best in the league at getting those buckets at the rim on the drive, the engine of his Linsanity period.
Lin also edges VanFleet on assist percentage, rebound percentage, steal percentage — in virtually every way, Lin is an upgrade right now for a team with title aspirations. Moreover, VanFleet’s availability is in question, as he’ll be out for at least the next three weeks with an undisclosed ligament injury. Still, as long as Lin plays at the same level he’s displayed in Atlanta, don’t expect VanFleet to get those minutes back once he returns.
Now consider this from a Lin free agency perspective. In a contract season, Lin showed that he can come to a young team and provide wisdom and leadership in a losing situation. Now he gets to prove that he can play important minutes in a key role for a winning team. This is no small thing for the well-traveled Lin, who is likely to play multiple rounds in the playoffs for the first time in his career.