Atlanta Hawks, NBA Free Agency

The Hawks trade for Jeremy Lin is one of the smartest this offseason

The acquisition of Jeremy Lin may not have been a blockbuster but it was among the savviest moves of the offseason and one with potential to have a major impact on the Hawks young roster.

Just minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jeremy Lin had been traded to Atlanta, #Linsanity was trending on Twitter. As usual, the news spawned numerous arguments between those in favor (Welcome to Atlanta, Linsanity is heading south, etc.) and those who felt something between apathy and outrage (who cares, horrible move for Atlanta, Linsanity was six years ago, etc.).

As incredible as Linsanity was and as much as it drives conversation on NBA Twitter, it’s little more than a memory, a line in Lin’s bio at this point. Six years and four teams later, coming off of a forgettable two-year stint in Brooklyn and a major injury, Lin, now 29, is a far cry from the 23-year-old kid who lit up Madison Square Garden in 2012.

So what can the Hawks expect from him this season? How much of an impact can he have? And why was this such a great move for the Hawks front office?

Even if the question won’t be fully answered until Lin sets foot on an NBA court, there are aspects of Lin’s impact that the Hawks can bank on. For now, here is what the team can expect from their latest roster addition.

Veteran leadership

Jeremy Lin hasn’t played since October of last year when a ruptured patella tendon ended his season on opening night. According to reports, Lin is progressing well and as of this month, is back to the point of taking contact on the court. He has not set a return date at this point though and the patella is a difficult, often unpredictable injury. Some players make full recoveries and continue successful careers while others are never the same, making it essentially a career-ending injury. Lin, his doctors, and his trainers have expressed optimism which gives the Hawks reason to be optimistic themselves. Regardless of what he can contribute on the court though, Lin’s presence in the locker room, film room, and on the bench will still be crucial.

In eight professional seasons, Lin has experienced everything from playing on a 10-day contract to being a star under the bright lights of MSG. He’s been a starter, a bench player, a primary scorer as well as a facilitator, a team leader and a role player, on playoff teams and lottery teams. Unlike most of the Hawks young roster (average age of 22), Lin has seen almost every imaginable situation and brings experience and guidance that the team had been desperately lacking before Thursday.

For an example of Lin’s positive influence, look no further than earlier this summer as several Nets players spent time in L.A. going through offseason workouts together. Many of those players have been visible in Las Vegas as well, attending Summer League practices and games, coaching and supporting the team’s younger players. When teammates were asked about the impetus for spending so much time as a group during the offseason, their answer was simple — Jeremy Lin. He’d gotten buy-in from other veterans then organized workouts and team-building activities. Lin was the driving force behind the extra effort and commitment to building team chemistry.

Brooklyn will miss it. Atlanta will benefit.

On-court presence

Following the trade, a lot of people were asking why the Hawks were adding another point guard, and another undersized one at that. With Dennis Schroder (6-foot-1, 172 pounds) and Trae Young (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) already on the roster, it might not have made sense to someone who hasn’t followed Lin closely over the last several years.

Aside from the leadership and veteran presence mentioned above, Lin, if healthy, is also a tremendously versatile backcourt player. He’s shown the ability to be productive either as a starter or bench player and his ability to play on or off the ball makes him someone who can be seamlessly plugged in at either guard position.

While playing with Charlotte in 2015-2016, Lin not only played point guard with the second unit behind Kemba Walker but also shared the floor with Walker for stretches, particularly in crunch time. Among all guard combos that played together during the fourth quarter in at least 55 games, Lin and Walker were top ten in net rating (plus-12.4) and true shooting percentage (57.9). The Hornets also won 48 games that season and Walker elevated his game to a different stratosphere, increasing his scoring average from 17.3 points the season before to 20.9. Not only did he improve his scoring totals, but he did it while taking fewer shots, turning in on of the most efficient seasons of his career by raising  his shooting from 38.5 to 42.7 percent.

As an undersized, score-first point guard who has drawn comparisons to Kemba Walker, Trae Young will be the benefactor of playing alongside Lin who will take pressure off the Hawks rookie first-round pick, share ball-handling responsibilities, and set Young up to score while playing off-ball

Roster flexibility

There have been trade rumors surrounding Dennis Schroder for months, but to this point he hasn’t moved. Prior to adding Lin, any deal the Hawks made to send Schroder elsewhere would have required them to pick up another point guard. By adding Lin, they now have someone to fill out that rotation spot in addition to playing as a third guard when needed..

Offloading Schroder, who is signed through 2020-21, would open up $15 million in cap space each of the next three seasons. Lin is making $12.5 million but will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019, at which point the Hawks can either pursue resigning him, look to free agency, or add another point guard in the draft. Schroder’s $15 million isn’t outrageous but it’s a steep price for a player not seen as the point guard of the future. Lin’s low-risk contract can’t hurt Atlanta past this season and the flexibility he gives the team to move Schroder could mean an extra $15 million in cap space going into free agency in the coming years.

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