A couple of weeks ago, a fair number of smart NBA analysts were clamoring that the Harden/Lin backcourt was a complete failure. They were saying Lin should come off the bench or even that he should be traded. To be fair, the two man combo had played horribly posting a -1.4 net rating. Still, it was an instant reaction we too often see in the national media. The two had played merely a month of basketball together, without training camp, and with much of that month without their head coach, Kevin McHale.
Newsflash: sometimes it takes a little bit of time for players to game chemistry. So far in December, the duo has been outscoring opponents by 8 points per 100 possessions. This has probably more to do with acclimation than anything. The two are learning how to play off each other and it has been devastating. Both players are near perfect fits for the Rockets super speed, spread pick and roll, drive and kick offense. While Lin isn't a spot up threat on Harden pick and rolls, he can catch the ball on the perimeter and quickly drive or run another PnR while the defense is out of position. And remember, Harden is no slouch spotting up as he as posted 1.2 points per play on spot up opportunities. Both players are lethal in transition and combine them with the athletic Chandler Parsons and you have a three man unit that scores 20.3 fast break points per 48 minutes.
Still, there are some redundancies with the Harden/Lin pairing. Both players should be primary ball handlers and while Harden can be quite good off ball, the same can't be said about Lin. Because of this, McHale has been starting to stagger Harden and Lin's minutes. Lin's number of minutes per game with Harden off the court have more than doubled in December and this two man unit isn't the Rockets' most used as it was the first month of the season.
In related news: the Rockets are on a five game winning streak and are sitting at 6th in the west. They've been one of the best offensive teams in the league and are playing an exciting brand of basketball. The playoffs weren't expected for this Rockets team, but if Harden and Lin keep building chemistry, who knows what the future holds.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com and mySynergySports