The Toronto Raptors are set to sign Jeremy Lin after the guard was waived by the Atlanta Hawks earlier this week. Many felt the Hawks were going to trade Lin at the deadline last Thursday, but whether Atlanta didn’t get any good offers or simply decided not to move him for whatever reason, he remained on the roster past the deadline and was then waived.
Now, Lin is a member of the Raptors, going from an Eastern Conference bottom-feeder to a title contender.
Lin is actually having a pretty solid 2018-19 campaign, averaging 10.7 points, 3.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds over 19.7 minutes per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 84.5 percent from the free-throw line.
But, how much will the floor general actually help Toronto?
Let’s break down three reasons why this was a perfect move for the Raptors:
3. Backcourt Depth
Toronto made a big splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. However, in that deal, the Raptors traded C.J. Miles and Delon Wright, leaving them awfully thin in their backcourt.
Then, backup point guard Fred VanVleet suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out for several weeks. Toronto thought it had Ben McLemore all locked up, but complications with the CBA prevented the Raptors from signing the former Sacramento Kings guard to a 10-day contract.
So, basically, the Raptors’ bench guards consisted of Norm Powell and…well…that’s it.
But the, Toronto signed Lin, providing some insurance for Kyle Lowry and giving the Raptors a guy off the bench who can come into the game and create his own shot.
Don’t underestimate how much that is going to help Toronto, especially with VanVleet now sidelined.
Lin is no world-beater, but the Raptors were literally left without a backup point guard after VanVleet went down. Now, Lin will give them a dependable veteran who can spell Lowry in spot minutes.
2. Shot Creation
It’s always important to have someone who can come off the bench and create his own shot.
The Raptors had that in VanVleet, but then he got hurt. Powell can kind of do it, but consistency has always been an issue for him throughout his career. Plus, he simply doesn’t get to the free-throw line.
Now, Toronto has a ball-handler in Lin who can serve as a microwave scorer for stretches. Lin is a guy who can get to the basket and finish, and he is also adept at drawing fouls, as he averages five free throws per 36 minutes over the course of his NBA tenure.
With Lowry’s free-throw rate dipping considerably this season, the Raptors can really use someone to enter the game and compensate for Lowry’s decline, and Lin is the perfect fit in that regard.
The only problem Lin has in that area is that he is turnover prone, as he has a penchant for driving into the lane without cause and getting stuck, frequently resulting in a bad pass or him just losing the ball.
But, again, Lin would only be a bench player, so Nick Nurse can mitigate his turnovers by controlling his minutes. It’s all about having Lin making things happen in short bursts and then pulling him before his sketchy decision-making and sometimes porous defense begin to show.
1. Just Another Weapon
In the Eastern Conference arms race, depth may be the ultimate deciding factor.
Coming into the year, the Boston Celtics and the Raptors were the two deepest teams in the conference, and I still believe that they are still the two best teams in the East regardless of the Milwaukee Bucks’ success and the Philadelphia 76ers’ deadline moves.
And why? Because of their benches.
You can never have enough depth in this league, and while some will cite the fact that rotations get shortened in the playoffs as a means of minimizing the impact of a good bench, I implore you to look at the 2014 San Antonio Spurs as a team that romped to a title because of how deep it was.
Heck, even the Golden State Warriors, as star-studded as their starting five has been, have had incredible depth in the form of guys like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and JaVale McGee over the years.
In a seven-game playoff series featuring two Eastern Conference contenders, one bench player can make the difference, and the more guys you have who can enter the game and make an impact, the better.
The Raptors lost some depth in the Gasol trade, but by signing Lin, they earned some of it back.