The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics get their NBA seasons started Wednesday, and Jeremy Lin versus Isaiah Thomas is the matchup to watch.
The New York Knicks were fortunate enough to kick off the 2016-17 season Tuesday night. Unfortunately, they had to face off against the reigning NBA champions, and the Derrick Rose proclaimed superteam got pummeled 117-88. As Wednesday night looms, Jeremy Lin and the Brooklyn Nets get ready to start fresh–and they are remarkably fresh.
A new GM, coach, and faces in the locker room help provide a glimmer of optimism for one of the league’s worst teams on paper.
The Nets enter their new season as 13-point underdogs against an outstanding Boston Celtics team. Brad Stevens’ squad is fully loaded with talent, and Danny Ainge had a great summer with signing Al Horford and drafting Jaylen Brown, with one of the Nets picks, might I add.
In short, these two teams are at opposite ends of the conference: Boston is a legitimate contender for the second seed, and I believe they’ll claim 55 wins this year. Brooklyn will be toward the bottom, but they’ll be fun to watch since they have players who won’t get overmatched night in and night out.
Above all else, the matchup of Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Thomas makes this game a must-watch for the respective fan bases.
Both guards are very similar; they play with a ruthless aggression that’s fueled by the lack of belief early in their careers. Lin was passed over 60 times during the 2010 NBA Draft, while IT only slipped 59 spots the following year.
Thomas is bucking the system by dominating a tall man’s sport as a short player, and his development has been profound. Last year, he was selected to his first All-Star game and averaged 22.2 points and 6.2 assists for Boston.
Lin has also put together a solid run in the league thus far, and it’s only enhanced by his “undrafted” label. Unfortunately, he’s gotten the short end of the stick by multiple franchises and hasn’t had the chance to grow as a player.
Throughout his career, Thomas has had a longer leash than Lin has, and he’s landed in situations that were better suited for him. Since JLin signed a long-term deal with the Nets, he’s poised for a breakout year because he has security and is one of the team’s two best players.
The two have met up 16 times before, and this is the first of four meetings this year.
Keep Everything Balanced
Lin is at his best going downhill, whether it’s coming off a screen or just blowing by his man. Since he was starting to become a one-trick pony, Lin refined his jump shot, and it’s noticeably better.
That improved jump shot bodes well for his matchup against Thomas because it’s taking advantage of his biggest crutch. Since IT stands at 5’9 roughly, opposing guards can just rise over the top of him and shoot all game long. While Lin isn’t trigger happy from three, he’ll get looks out there because Atkinson wants to move the ball.
Moreover, it’s tougher for Lin to beat Thomas off the dribble based on human anatomy. Since there’s a significant height difference, Thomas’ hips are lower to the ground, allowing him to stay in front of his guys more efficiently.
If his Jimmy isn’t falling and he’s unable to beat Thomas consistently, the pick-and-roll is a solid counter, and Boston switched almost everything in their preseason games against Brooklyn. More times than not, the big that’s switching can’t cover Lin, and he was able to get to the rim and finish or get fouled.
Potential Field Day
Since the Nets are one of the worst interior defending teams in the NBA, there is a huge chance that Thomas goes off. Lin’s a good defender on the perimeter, but when he gets beat–it will happen–the help doesn’t rotate quick enough to alter his shot much.
Moreover, IT is so slick with the basketball and can finish with a reverse layup, floater, and more. His small stature also allows him to split double-teams and squeeze through tight spaces.
Taking some positives away from this porous defense, Lin’s pressure will make Thomas work for his buckets, and it’ll force other guys to beat them also. While Thomas is a great athlete for his size, so is Lin, and he’s very agile moving laterally. His hands are quick also, and Lin can pick IT’s pocket should he get cute with the ball.
Lin has the height advantage but needs to respect Thomas’ ability–and willingness–to shoot from the outside. Unfortunately, the poor interior defense I mentioned will only enhance an outside jump shot because Lin will have to give a bit of a cushion to prevent the drive.