Clippers Free Agency: Will Jeremy Lin leave the Hornets?

Mar 25, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) walks to the bench during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 25, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (7) walks to the bench during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 112-105. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

One possible target in free agency for the Los Angeles Clippers is Jeremy Lin, but will he even leave the Charlotte Hornets and head elsewhere?

Austin Rivers is opting out of his contract and $3.3 million salary for 2016-17, which at least opens up the possibility for the Los Angeles Clippers to look to free agency and survey their backup point guard options. With less than $10 million in cap space being more than likely, there won’t be many possibilities and anyone the Clippers can sign won’t suddenly take them over the edge. Nevertheless, if Doc Rivers wants to support his core as much as possible, he’ll be doing all he can to tempt guys to L.A. on cheap contracts like last year.

Of course, it won’t be as easy this time around. The salary cap is rising to $92 million, giving Bismack Biyombo the chance to rake in $17 million a year after a strong postseason and Harrison Barnes a shot at a max contract. Everyone is getting paid and almost everyone is going to seek the chance to.

This doesn’t make matters easier for Doc and the Clippers by any means, and as expected, both Cole Aldrich and Rivers have opted to test free agency. Even more concerning is that both (particularly Aldrich) have played well enough to earn a solid pay rise in the rising market. And if Doc can’t keep them and doesn’t want to use the mid-level exception on Aldrich, he’ll be opting to test the market himself and see who he can take a shot at.

One such player could be Jeremy Lin.

When he’s engaged, Lin can be an energetic defender and has sound lateral quickness to cover guards around the perimeter and match his man’s steps on drives to the rim. Offensively, he had a solid season off the bench during his first season in Charlotte, averaging 16.1 points and 4.1 assists per 36 minutes, despite typical weak efficiency due to his streaky shooting (33.6 percent from three and 41.2 percent overall).

Even with that wavering efficiency, Lin showed he could be a difference maker for the Hornets with his energy off the bench and the ability to create his share of offense through drives and the occasional three-point burst.

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For a team like the Clippers, who simply need a solid guard to support Chris Paul, play some defense, add some more penetration to a perimeter-reliant bench, and set up the offense, Lin is worth some interest. He’s not a top-tier point guard, but he’s a solid backup and could start for a bunch of struggling teams.

Although, that’s where the problem arises for the Clippers, seeing as plenty of teams are searching for that same type of player. If anything, they can offer a bigger role and they can certainly offer more money.

Even more troubling for the Clippers if they want to sign Lin is that he may not even entertain other offers too seriously anyway.

“If you asked me would I be interested in coming back, there’s no question in my mind — it’s a resounding yes,” Lin said to USA Today early in May. “I would be very interested in coming back.”

A resounding “yes” isn’t encouraging for the Clippers. It’s clear Lin is happy to return to Charlotte after carving out an important role for the Hornets, who continued their rise up the Eastern Conference with sound two-way play under Steve Clifford to win 48 games and take the Miami Heat to seven games in the first round.

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They aren’t without worry this offseason, though, with Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson and Lin hitting free agency. Batum in particular is on his way to a pay rise, possibly even a max contract or close to it, and there are players the Hornets will prioritize over Lin. Plus, with limited talent in the 2016 free agency point guard pool, the offers will fly in.

Lin is reportedly turning down his $2.2 million player option for 2016-17 (per Chris Haynes of to test the market and see what the Hornets will offer him, but there isn’t necessarily much left in their budget for him.

The five players mentioned above (including Lin) put pressure on the Hornets in free agency and they likely won’t be able to keep them all. With $48 million in guaranteed contracts and $66 million in free agent cap holds already, Lin could be left till last and move elsewhere for a contract he deems more appropriate, as The Vertical’s Bobby Marks has discussed:

"The odd man out is likely going to be Lin. With Lin opting out of his contract – and with non-Bird rights – Charlotte will have to use cap space to sign him. To create room, Charlotte would need to address Batum, Jefferson, Lee and Williams before circling back to Lin. The large cap holds have Charlotte over the salary cap."

Given Lin’s interest to come back, though, it sounds like money may not be such a big issue to him, with the importance of his role (obviously) being key. However, if he has opted out of his contract for more money, he essentially moves straight of the Clippers’ budget if he’s seeking for anything around or above the $5-8 million range. They just don’t have more money to spare than that.

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$5 million (if Austin Rivers leaves) would most likely be the only amount that would be comfortable for Doc to offer, given the important of the mid-level exception to solidify the frontcourt and the limited funds to make other adjustments. Elsewhere, given the limited amount of notable free agent point guards, Lin could easily get closer to $10 million, if not slightly more.

Ultimately, when weighing up Lin’s comments and the financial situation of the Hornets, it seems that he’ll either be staying due to his fondness of Charlotte or search for a pay rise and a larger role elsewhere if they can’t afford him. With the Clippers, Lin will be taking a step backwards in terms of both money and his role.

Next: 5 point guards for Clippers to target in free agency

Despite the intrigue as a contender, it doesn’t seem too likely that he’ll be coming to L.A. as some Clippers fans may hope.