The story of Jeremy Lin has been told countless times over the course of the 2011/2012 season. From going undrafted coming out of Harvard in 2010 to starring for the Knicks after being waived twice prior to the start of the season, Lin's young career has been an emotional roller coaster of extreme highs and incredible lows in just two short years. With the star point guard seemingly sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs due to a torn meniscus, Lin will enter the offseason as a restricted free agent.
A quick look at Lin's numbers, while a limited sample size, reveal a developing star who would be a welcome addition to any team's backcourt. Lin played in 35 games with the Knicks during the 2011/2012 season in which he started 25 contests. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 14.6 PPG and 6.2 APG after signing with the Knicks on December 27. Heading into his third season, Lin will look to hold onto the ball with more care after averaging 3.6 turnovers per game with the Knicks.
Lin's value goes beyond his contributions at the point guard position as he is a dream for any team's marketing staff. As an intelligent individual with deep religious convictions, similar to the NFL's Tim Tebow, Lin became an instant fan favorite with the Madison Square Garden crowd. He also demonstrated burgeoning leadership ability that unified a fractured team and was quickly respected by his teammates including veterans Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony. Thanks to jersey and t-shirt sales associated with "Linsanity," Madison Square Garden saw merchandise profits increase in the single-digit millions.
The Knicks will be afforded a strong opportunity to retain Lin thanks to changes to what teams can offer restricted free agents with fewer than three years in the league. Dubbed the "Gilbert Arenas provision," teams looking to compete with the Knicks for Lin's services cannot offer more than the mid-level exception for the first year of a new contract. This will allow for the Knicks to be able to match any offer made by another team looking to steal Lin away from MSG. The Knicks will seemingly look to sign Lin for more than one season as Lin would once again become a restricted free agent in 2013 in which the Knicks would only be protected by holding Lin's Early Bird Rights.
Re-signing Lin should still allow the Knicks to be able to retain Landry Fields, who is also slated to become a restricted free agent this offseason. Fields' performance in his second season could be described as a disappointment after enjoying a surprisingly successful rookie campaign with the Knicks. The former Stanford star saw his points per game decrease (9.7 to 8.8) as well as his rebounds per game (6.4 to 4.2) while averaging nearly three minutes less per contest.
Unless the Knicks attempt to sign Steve Nash (unlikely) as a prerequisite for Phil Jackson coming on board (even less likely), look for Lin to be wearing orange and blue this October.