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Latest News, NBA / Nov 7, 2012 / 3:15 pm

Houston GM Defends Jeremy Lin’s Turnovers

Jeremy Lin

Even during the apex of Linsanity last year, Jeremy Lin always had a problem coughing up the rock. With New York in 2011-12, he committed 3.6 turnovers a night despite playing less than 27 minutes. Much of that had to do with his role with the Knicks – they were asking him to do so much, probably too much that inevitably he was going to make mistakes (For comparison’s sake, Lin’s usage rate dwarfed other high-volume turnover guards like Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo). But still, people are right to question Lin’s efficiency because statistically, you can make an argument he’s a poor creator (last year, he averaged just 6.1 dimes a night, and his assist rate was less than half of the aforementioned Rondo and Nash).

With less pressure this season in Houston (usage rate is down to a more manageable 21.4), he’s taking better care of the ball, turning it over less (down to 3.3) and producing more assists (7.3). James Harden deserves some of the credit. In barely a week, defenses are beginning to completely key in on the swingman, leaving Lin more opportunities to avoid traps and extra attention off pick-n-rolls.

The Rockets are certainly happy with his production, even if he’s shooting just 29-for-87 this year when you include the preseason (at 27 percent, his three-point shooting over the same period is even worse). They expect those numbers to rise. And when a fan asked why Lin commits so many turnovers, Houston’s GM Daryl Morey defended Lin on the online community Quora by writing:

Many of Jeremy’s turnovers are charges. These are the best turnovers to have as not only do charges mean that you are being aggressive as a player (when good things often happen) but also turnover charges are not “live ball” turnovers where teams get a higher expected value possession the other way. For example, in our opening Detroit game, Jeremy had no “bad pass” turnovers. They were all charges or off the dribble. Compare his lack of any bad pass turnovers to his 12 “high quality” passes in the game (passes he made that set up high percentage offense for others)

This leads into my next point that Jeremy’s passes were the best in the league last year in the percentage that led to high quality offense. This is a fancy way of saying that when he makes a risky pass it is usually for a high reward so his bad pass turnovers, when he has them, are not as bad as for other guards as his avg possession efficiency remains higher

Finally, most young guards who are going to be very good start as high turnover players in college and in their early seasons in the pros and get better throughout their career

Much of what Morey wrote makes sense. In the season opener in Detroit, Lin had four turnovers and eight dimes. Average production for a starting point guard, but by Morey’s calculations, it was excellent. We (as in the basketball media/fan base) still don’t always have access to viable statistics to accurately rate “hockey” assists, the ones that lead to the pass that leads to a basket, nor do we have any consistent way of telling how good a creator someone is if they’re setting up teammates for shots and by plain bad luck they aren’t falling.

But in the end, Morey is absolutely right about this: most of the league’s best distributors also turn the ball over at incredibly high rates. Lin is also an attacking point guard, and through the years, whether it was Allen Iverson or Baron Davis, guards who consistently challenged the defense often coughed it up as well. It’s rare, nearly impossible, to find a guard that can handle the rock, and run an offense for large portions of a game without fumbling away possessions. But of all the players who played at least 25 minutes a night last season, the five highest turnover rates belonged to Nash, Rondo, Jason Kidd, Ricky Rubio and… Kendrick Perkins (someone doesn’t fit here).

As long as Lin is productive outside of those turnovers, Houston’s brass shouldn’t be too concerned.

How good can Lin be in Houston?

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