Commentary

Lin's got game -- and room to improve

He scores, dishes and wins, but J-Lin's weaknesses may take time to correct

Updated: March 7, 2012, 12:15 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

There's an Eastern Conference scout who, like the rest of the sports world, has been "completely caught up" in the Jeremy Lin story over the past four weeks.

"It's the perfect storm. It's the perfect system for him and he's the perfect person for it," the scout said.

Of course, it's not all perfect for Lin, despite the New York Knicks' 9-5 record in games Lin has started.

According to the scout, weaknesses have emerged in Lin's game over the past month -- weaknesses that opponents will key on until he forces them to do differently. His ability to correct those flaws is key for a Knicks team hoping to make a deep postseason run.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin is on the scouting report now, so teams know to force him to his left.

GO LEFT, YOUNG MAN

One of Lin's deficiencies, scouts say, is his inability to go left with any consistency. This is nothing new. The same scout enamored with Lin says his tendency to go right was noted in early scouting reports.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lin drives right in 70 percent of his isolation plays. Boston and Miami both had success against Lin by trying to force him left. Lin shot a combined 7-for-37 against the Heat and Celtics; the Knicks lost both games.

"Once you go through the league it becomes a bigger disadvantage," another scout said of Lin's proclivity to go right.

So how do you fix it?

Scouts say the repetition of offseason drills (both strength and ballhandling) should help fix the problem. One person familiar with Lin's game believes he has to strengthen his right leg to become more comfortable pushing off to his left.

But there's little the Knicks' staff can do to correct it right now, given the lack of practice time in the shortened season.

"You can always tweak things -- switch the angle of his screens, bring him to the other side of the floor, change where he starts a play. But I don't think you'll see a dramatic improvement in his ballhandling the rest of the way," one scout said.

TOO MANY TURNOVERS

Sixteen percent of Lin's possessions end in turnovers -- the fourth highest turnover percentage among point guards playing at least 20 minutes per game.

Most of Lin's turnovers are a result of his aggressive style of play, scouts say.

"I love his aggressiveness and it has worked in a lot of cases, so you don't necessarily want to settle him down," one scout said. "You want to see him make better decisions, but that's difficult to do."

Essentially, scouts say, it comes back to practice time and experience -- things that will be in short supply the rest of the season. The Knicks have 28 games in the final 50 days of the season. Most days in between games will be used as recovery days. The team won't have much opportunity to scrimmage.

That means Lin will have to work out his issues during the games.

"It's decision-making -- if you have a lane, go ahead and take it. But he's forced it sometimes," one scout said. "And in [Mike] D'Antoni's system, he's encouraged that 'If you think you have an advantage, go ahead and take it.' It's not a big 'structure' system."

BEWARE THE TRAP

To try to limit Lin's pick-and-roll opportunities, many teams have sent two defenders at him as a perimeter trap. Scouts have seen Lin handle this scheme with mixed results.

At his best, Lin will lure both defenders and exploit the subsequent weakness created in the defense. Or he'll lure the bigger defender and use his speed as an advantage; this is what Lin did so well against Dallas the first time, when he had 28 points and 14 assists.

But he struggled against the trap versus Miami and, to a lesser degree, Boston. He had a combined 14 turnovers in the two games.

"That's something he's going to have to get better at, because he's going to see it more and more," one scout said.

To make teams pay, one talent evaluator suggests sending a shooter to set the screen for Lin. Then the shooter slips the screen, giving himself an open look.

Lin can also engage both defenders. "If you can string it out and have two people play you, you're definitely creating an advantage," the scout said.

PROGNOSIS: POSITIVE

Even while dissecting the deficiencies in his game, scouts made it clear that they believe Lin can and will improve in all areas.

"I think he's talented enough to work on it and really get better," one evaluator said. "He's a student of the game."

Lin recognizes that he has plenty to learn. After all, he has just 14 NBA starts to his name.

"I'm learning a lot and absorbing information right now," he said. "Obviously it doesn't feel good at all and [I] have some long nights after some bad games. But that's part of the growth process."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

EDITORS' PICKS