ATLANTA—There are two ways to view the Atlanta Hawks' recent trade for point guard Jeremy Lin (via the Nets):
The sensible way ... and the crazy way.
Let's address the latter rationale first.
While listening to satellite radio on Friday night, I heard a Hawks fan declare that Lin's acquisition would soon prompt the end of Dennis Schroder in Atlanta, given how the club now had a short-term lead guard (Lin) and a long-term star in the mix (rookie Trae Young).
He even went as far to say the disgruntled Schroder should be demoted to third string, if Lin and Young develop great chemistry coming out of training camp/exhibition play.
The comment, in its totality, was almost enough for me to involuntarily veer into another lane of the highway.
This gentleman caller knew that Lin played in only 23 percent of the Brooklyn Nets' games the previous two seasons. Correct?
Surely, the caller realizes Lin's most recent malady—a torn patella—remains one of the most unpredictable rehab assignments in sports, in terms of recapturing past glory. Right?
And is this headstrong Hawks fan aware that Lin turns 30 next month?
Unfortunately, we'll never know, since the radio host politely let the man speak his pie-in-the-sky peace and then hang up, without much follow-up comment.
Well, I can't let this one slide.
Looking at the Hawks' roster, I see a collection of talent with intriguing potential, but also one that doesn't have a snowball's chance of making the playoffs next year; and if the club should experience some kind of unplanned uprising next spring, to the tune of 41-44 victories (possibly good enough for the No. 8 seed), I'm guessing Schroder would command the lion's share of credit.
And here's why? Like him or lump him, Schroder (Atlanta's reigning leader with points, assists, field goals made ... third in steals) stands as the Hawks' best player; and with apologies to Dewayne Dedmon, John Collins and Young, it's not even close.
Here's the entire list of NBA players that averaged 19 points, six assists and shot at least 43 percent from the field last season, when rounding up statistically:
Still feel like giving away Schroder for the NBA-trade equivalent of a bag of balls?
For good measure, Schroder also boasts the following recent accomplishments:
**Schroder has notched 17 double-doubles over the last two seasons (including the playoffs).
**Last year, Schroder racked up 25 points/5-plus assists 13 different times.
**Citing NBA stats, Schroder ranked third overall in drives to the basket last season.
**According to ESPN's John Hollinger, efficiency-wise, Schroder ranked 13th among the point guards averaging more than 30 minutes per game.
**Citing the NBA's pick-and-roll stats for 2017-18, Schroder owned top-5 tallies with pick-and-roll possessions, points and field goals made.
(You'll notice Lin fared well in the same categories ... on the strength of playing just one game last season.)
**For his monster outing of 41 points, seven assists, five rebounds vs. Utah last season, Schroder only connected on three triples and six free throws.
And in the department of Other People's Money:
**According to Spotrac.com, a Web site which continually monitors the NBA salary cap, Schroder will rank 14th in base salary among point guards, with the $15.5 million consuming only 15.5 percent of Atlanta's cap for 2018-19.
AVOIDING THE HASHTAG HYPE
It's quite natural to hear Lin's name and immediately flash back to the NBA's brief, but highly intense era of #Linsanity.
From Feb. 4 to March 9 in 2012, Lin (American-born, Chinese descent) became an overnight sensation (local/national/global), coming out of nowhere to average 21.1 points, 8.3 assists. 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals for the attention-starved Knicks.
And since this 16-game run of excellence occurred in New York, Lin graced two Sports Illustrated covers during the momentous month. Quite a feat.
Without a doubt, Lin was one of the NBA's biggest stars during that period. However, it was also a long time ago.
How long? Here's something to lament: Lin has participated in 377 regular-season games since the #Linsanity period effectively ended on March 9, 2012.
Charting the time from March 11, 2012 to the present, Lin has scored 20-plus points 41 times ... or at an 11-percent clip.
Assist-wise, the former Harvard star racked up double-digit dimes 19 times ... or just 3 percent of the 377-game sample.
In other words, Lin might have been an above-replacement performer in his 20s, with the potential to be excellent every now and then.
But he'll be 30 before Hawks training camp opens in late September. At that age, NBA survival takes on a new meaning.
PLAYING THE 'IF' GAME
For the record, I would have no problem with the Hawks trading Schroder anytime soon. Business is business.
Without question, they're a better team with Schroder in the lineup for 35-plus minutes a night. However, if Atlanta perceives its rebuilding project to carry on for another year or two, might as well go for the jugular and really bottom out during this transitional phase.
In that case, sell everything but the proverbial kitchen sink ... which excludes only the draftees from the last two years (Young, Collins, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman).
That said, good luck getting full value for Schroder at this point of the summer (many cap-strapped teams). The Hawks' next go-round of leverage probably entails that frenetic 14-day period before the NBA trade deadline (mid-February).
Come then, Schroder's eminently doable contract (only $46.5 million from 2018-21) should look even better to playoff contenders with point guard needs.
My advice for the short term: Don't just be lottery-level bad. Be the worst team you can possibly be for one more season, while holding out hopes of landing the No. 1 pick in next summer's NBA draft.
The rationale: It probably won't matter at the gate anyway, since Trae Young's face will be plastered onto every season-ticket campaign this fall. As long as there's the tangible hope of Young morphing into the next Stephen Curry, it should be enough to attract sizable crowds to the newly refurbished Philips Arena.
Back to the upcoming draft: The 'It' player for 2019 is a Duke-bound teenager named R.J. Barrett, who led Team Canada to the gold medal in the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup.
Against the Americans, the 6-foot-6 Barrett rolled for 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
As such, Barrett's already being hailed as the LeBron James of Canada, even if he currently has the lean frame of Rodney Hood (LeBron's former teammate in Cleveland).
Of course, Atlanta also has the wonderful insurance policy of possessing Dallas and Cleveland's 'protected' first-rounders next summer, meaning that in a perfect world, the Hawks could own three top-15 selections in 2019—a potential bounty in which no other NBA team can presently match.
Or they would have enough capital to possibly trade up for Barrett's rights.
Which brings us to this: Did you hear the new NBA-grapevine rumor, with the Hawks reportedly offering to swap first-rounders with the Cavaliers on the eve of last month's draft—provided Cleveland (No. 8 overall pick) would absorb Kent Bazemore's hefty contract of $37.4 million through 2020?
Well, if the Hawks were willing to drop five slots in a top-heavy draft, that should tell you everything about their fear—or lack thereof—of bottoming out at least one more time, as a means of stockpiling more assets (high draft picks/cap space) for the future.
And in that worst-case scenario, Lin should absolutely play 30 minutes a night for Atlanta.
Of his last three teams, covering four seasons, the Lakers, Hornets and Nets had a combined record of 117-211 with Lin on the roster.