When Jeremy Lin got injured earlier this year, I believed he had the skills to make a strong return. In his brief but successful stint last season, Lin did not rely solely on athleticism, as many NBA players do. Instead, Lin was taking advantage of a very strong jump shot. The threat of his jump shot often forced players to play up on him, which helped Lin to get by perimeter defenders more easily. This has been Chris Paul's formula for success since returning from injury, and it's allowed Steve Nash to remain elite offensively despite slowing down with age.
Last season, Lin ranked in the top-7 in the NBA among point guards in FG% from 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet. He was more accurate from these distances than many household names, such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. He demonstrated a jump shot that deserved to be respected, and teams adjusted accordingly.
After shooting a spectacular 45.9% on 2-point jump shots through his first 23 games as a starter last year, Lin shot 20% on 2-point jump shots through his last three games. The suddenly awful jump shot seemed inexplicable at the time, but it was passed off as a brief shooting slump. After all, three games are nearly meaningless statistically. Later, however, an MRI revealed that Lin had a torn meniscus, which sidelined him for six months. It was possible that his awful shooting was related to this injury.
Thus, there were no major red-flags regarding Lin's jump shot coming into this season, if looking only at his NBA resume. Everyone knew about the turnovers, but he has managed to take care of the ball better than last season (18% turnover percent, down from 21%). His assist percent to turnover percent ratio is not that different from the ratios belonging to Mike Conley and Brandon Jennings. Despite this improvement, he's been a much worse player; the crux of his offensive repertoire, his jump shot, has disappeared.
What started as a three-game problem last season has now extended through twelve games this year. Lin is shooting 22% on jump shots this season, and it doesn't get any prettier regardless of how you break it down.
Of the 16 jump shots Lin has made this season, 11 have been assisted. That may not sound strange, until you consider that only 12 of his 75(!) 2-point jump shots last season were assisted. Last season's Lin possessed a very rare skill, which is precisely why I thought he could bounce back strong from his injury.
He had the ability to make jump shots off the dribble at a very high clip, which is arguably the most difficult thing to do in the NBA. This season, Lin can't hit any kind of jump shots. He's 2 for 17 on short jumpers, and he never was a great 3-point shooter. He's shooting terribly whether he spots up or pulls up off the dribble.
It is possible that Lin simply isn't healthy yet, as some suggested at the start of the season. Maybe his problems are psychosomatic; perhaps the injury is holding him back mentally more than physically. Or maybe Lin isn't very good. After all, Linsanity lasted about 26 games, and Lin wasn't very good at the end of that stretch, as I mentioned earlier. It is still too early in this season, and in Lin's career, to truly know which is correct. I know many in the NBA and in New York are rooting for Lin to be awful, but I thoroughly enjoyed his rise from obscurity to prominence last season. For Lin to experience success again, he has to start by regaining the shooting success he had last season.