Jeremy Lin may have been the biggest reason for the New York Knicks turn around this season. Without him, Mike D'Antoni would have been fired long before having the chance to quit. Without him, the Knicks wouldn't have continued their winning ways when Mike Woodson took over as head coach. Since leaving with injury the Knicks have missed Lin. They have continued to win but no one can argue the Knicks are stronger without Lin than they are with him. Unless the Knicks make the second round or beyond in the playoffs they will have to make due with Baron Davis and committee at point guard. The question is, can and should New York bring Lin back next season or has he played his last game as a member of the Knicks?
Jeremy Lin made himself extremely popular with the New York Knicks. He went from a two time waiver player to proving himself worthy of playing on the NBA level. However, he's a flawed player. He can't go to his left, has an inconsistent jumper, lacks experience and has far too many turnovers per game for a starting point guard. That being said, starter or backup, Lin is an NBA level point guard.
Lin was picked up on waivers on a one-year deal so his contract is up after the end of the season. He'll enter this summer as a restricted free agent. That much is straight forward but then it gets a bit tricky.
Since Lin was a waiver claim the Knicks don't have his “Bird rights”. That means New York can’t go over the salary cap to sign him. Incase you don't know, the Knicks are already over the cap for next season.
That's not to say the Knicks don't have options. The Knicks can offer 125 percent of the $762,195 he made this year. That's $952, 743.75 — roughly $1 million. By NBA rules that's the best the Knicks can offer him. Obviously any decent point guard is worth that and another team would simply offer Lin more.
However, the Knicks also have exceptions to use if they want to offer Lin more than the $1 million to stick around. They could use their bi-annual exception, worth $2 million. They could also use a portion of the entirety of their mid-level exception, worth up to $5 million. A $5 million offer would likely mean a return to the Knicks since the CBA won't allow another team to offer Lin more than $5 million for next season. Remember, that's exception money otherwise used on other free agents.
That's the basketball business side and how they could keep Lin around. They'd make any of those expenditures because they either believe Lin could be the starting point guard or at least a contributing backup off the bench. However, there's another reason outside of basketball that could drive the Knicks to bring Lin back even if they have to overpay to do it.
To say the Asian market is huge would be a gross understatement. Lin's rise to fame brought a lot of money to the Knicks franchise and the league as a whole. Lin draws sponsors. He sells tickets. He sells jerseys. He's a marketing dream.
Lin has not only become a house hold name but he's known internationally. The money he represents world wide is hard to fathom. While both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are unquestionably more skilled and accomplished players Lin is likely the most valuable player on the roster.
The simple fact is, the NBA is a business. No matter Lin's salary, he pays for himself. Bringing Lin back is the right business move.
James Dolan can be accused of being a lot of things but a bad business man is not one of them. He knows when he has a good thing going and he's not going to allow the most popular Asian athlete in the world go elsewhere over a few million dollars. It's close to a guarantee Lin will be a Knick next season.
What remains to be seen is how much it will cost the Knicks to retain his services and how much it will impact the rest of the Knicks roster next season. Lets hope the Knicks can retain Lin and still have money left to either bring others back or other free agents in. Exceptions are how teams in the Knicks financial position upgrade their rosters. Spending as small of a portion of those exceptions on Lin is the key to building a contender next season.
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