Unless you have been living in North Korea the past month, you will have heard the name, the story and the achievements of Jeremy Lin.
Lin burst onto the scene and into the tabloid culture of sports more shockingly and suddenly than anyone before him. His myriad of followers not only within New York or the United States, but encompassing the entire world, have elevated this Asian prodigy into the greatest overnight story professional sport has seen in a very long time.
I am all for Linsanity, I think it is not only great for the kid, but also great for the success hungry franchise and city. There are very few, if any negatives to take out of this situation.
However, it has emerged, over the course of his meteoric rise to fame, that he has began to be compared to other players, as is the case with the NBA. We cannot go 5 minutes within this league without comparing one player to another to justify our beliefs or feelings towards that individual. It is the single biggest problem I have with the NBA and it is the single greatest burden the league carries over every other sport in the world. This need to compare has prompted several media figures, players and fans to compare Jeremy Lin to Steve Nash.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of why this is so ridiculous, can we step back and gawk the acceptance we have with comparing a 10 game rookie with a 2 time MVP and future Hall of Famer? This just is not fair on Steve Nash nor Jeremy Lin. No good can come from this, but since everyone insists on pushing the idea through, I will address it.
Steve Nash has had one of the greatest careers a point guard as ever had. Few argue that he is a top 3 playmaking point guard in the history of the game. Few argue that he is a top 3 shooting point guard in the history of the game. He is as pure at the position as anyone that came before him. More importantly, he is a leader of men, a consummate professional and a genuine human being.
Since 2004, Nash has had 5 seasons averaging 11 assists or better, one of 10.9, and just one season in single digits. Over that same period of time, he has never shot under 50% from the field and only once has shot under 40% from three point range.
Over his career he averages 50% from the field, 43% from three and an astonishing 90% from the free throw line. His career turnover to assist ratio is 4:1.
Nash is widely considered the greatest pick and roll point guard we have ever seen. His offensive influence cannot be understated and his defense is certainly underrated. He is a star in every definition of the word.
He has achieved just about everything a player can do.
Jeremy Lin has played 50 games in the NBA. 29 of these 50 were for the Warriors, where he played less than 10 minutes per game. Since that was not the Jeremy Lin we know today, I will dismiss those appearances.
There is no denying that Lin has revitalised and redirected the game’s most iconic franchise. He has done so single handedly. The Knicks went on a 7 game tear when he became the starting point guard, and the majority of these games did not feature Amare Stoudemire nor Carmelo Anthony.
He deserves all the credit in the world for this dramatic turnaround. But that does not mean we need to find a figure of reflection.
As I see it, the comparisons have stemmed from these roots. He has flourished in the Mike D’Antoni offense, as Steve Nash did, given the offense gives all the decision making to the point guard, blended by pick and rolls, pick and pops, wing cutting, off ball screens, everything to make the point guards job as easy as possible. There is no surprise D’Antoni has done so, given he was a talented point guard himself.
Lin plays with Amare Stoudemire, the big man of the great Pheonix pick and roll that featured Steve Nash. They have had some success together. At times, Lin has been caught out and does not have a solid presence on the defensive end of the court.
That is about all the similarities I see between the two. If you’ll notice, there is only one factor directly related to his ability. This has grown simply from the situation.
Steve Nash is a perennial 50, 40, 90 guy, meaning he shots 50% from the field, 40% from 3 and 90% from the line. Jeremy Lin is not a good shooter by any stretch of the imagination. Sure he has hit some big shots over the past few weeks, but that is not his game.
Lin shoots 47% from the field, 33% from three and 77% from the line. All very solid numbers, but do they even remotely compare to Steve Nash’s career? Not even close.
You might hit me with, well that is only a 21 game sample, you can’t have an accurate overview of his skills shooting the ball. Well if you do come back with that, this 21 game sample will likely exaggerate his ability to shoot the ball given the hot streak he has been on. But to satisfy that, we’ll take a look at his Harvard career.
In his four years at America’s most prestigious school, Lin shot 48% from the field, 33% from three and 73% from the line.
I too was surprised at how well that worked out for me.
Lin is a good passer and a willing passer, but he is so far from being an elite passer it is baffling to me the first name he was thrown around with was Steve Nash. Lin put up 4.3 assists per game over his Harvard career, 4.8 in his final 2 years. His totals for the Knicks sit at 5.8 per game, not a hugely significant improvement, and he is playing with much greater talent in a system that makes it very easy for point guards to consistently register high assist games.
Steve Nash plays the position with his head on a swivel. His eyes are always moving, he is always talking and he will throw a pin point pass without even looking at his teammate. It is like a sixth sense. Lin does not make the jaw dropping passes, he does not solely initiate the shot opportunity (t0 the extent that Nash does) and he largely gets his bigger assist totals when he simply hands it off to a big man in the paint. I will admit Lin’s timing when passing the ball close to the rim is exceptional, but he is not near Nash’s level.
The greatest, and perhaps only, criticism of Lin’s game has been his turnovers. No player has committed as many turnovers through their first 10 starts than Jeremy Lin. In his past 11 games, all of which he has started, Lin has registered a monstrously hideous 6.1 turnovers per game. That is just inexcusable. Whilst the aggression and confidence should be commended, a point guard cannot be making that many lapses per game, especially not one that is the only close resemblance to a pure point guard the franchise has.
Steve Nash, meanwhile, is as efficient with the ball as anyone in the league. He is perennially in the top 3 in assists yet has never completed a season averaging 4 turnovers per game. Magic Johnson, the greatest point guard of all time, averaged 4 turnovers per game over his entire career, with similar assist totals.
So in the three key areas to both Nash and Lin’s respective games, shooting, assisting and efficiency, they simply do not compare. There is no resemblance, no parallels, no relationship.
Jeremy Lin has become a victim of circumstance. Not only is it unfair on Steve Nash to be compared to an unachieved, 11 game rookie, but it is unfair for Jeremy Lin to have the expectations of a two time MVP forced upon his inexperienced shoulders.
Please do not get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier for the guy and I am certainly on board with the Linsanity. But my biggest pet peeve in sports is giving irrelevant and unjustified credit. We do it all too often and this I cannot understand.
It is so hard for people to allow a player to forge their own path and create their own legacy. They have to align them with a previous or current individual and use this as the criteria for which their career is judged.
If Jeremy Lin achieves half of what Steve Nash has, he will be an MVP and will most likely go into the Hall of Fame. More importantly he will have expanded and aided in the growth of basketball and it’s relationship with various charities.
It is time to stop with the comparisons. They begin and end with the coach and the teammate (Stoudemire).
What Jeremy Lin is doing is unprecedented. What Steve Nash has done is unprecedented. Let’s leave the similiarities at that.