Life in the Fast Lane
Is Jeremy Lin the new talent code for the NBA?
by Kurt Brungardt
The basketball world is wondering… Is Jeremy Lin for real? Now, another piece of the Lin puzzle has emerged.
Lin’s pre-Draft speed numbers have surfaced, giving fans new information and suggesting a new talent code for NBA success. The equation goes like this: Four years of college + a high BAM score for speed = JEREMY LIN.
Basic Athletic Measurement (BAM) is the company that administers athletic tests for the NBA Draft Combine. The Combine is an annual event where the top NBA Draft prospects (only an elite group of about 60 get invited every year) are tested for speed, strength, agility and jumping ability. BAM prides itself on being the gold standard for athletic testing, using the latest computer technology and electronic timing equipment to achieve consistent results.
Pro teams analyze these test numbers in every conceivable way to increase their odds of drafting an impact player. Lin did not get an NBA Draft Combine invite, but he did have a BAM score. Lin’s numbers for speed were released on the BAM blog today.
Lin was tested in another, less known combine—the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT). Although it’s under the radar, the Portsmouth Invitational, now in its 60th year, is actually the original Combine. Eligibility is simple: You have to be a college senior and have played college ball for four years. This automatically rules out many blue-chip recruits who leave after a year in college or go pro right out of high school.
But the basketball players at Portsmouth, with four years of college under their belt, have developed a more complete skill set (passing, shooting, handling the ball, seeing the court, finishing with both hands, playing team defense, etc.) that many former McDonald’s All Americans and 18-year-old European phenoms don’t have going into the pros. It’s hard to develop these basics in the heat of NBA competition, and it’s hard to master them in high school.
Jeremy Lin already has a Tony Parker teardrop. Parker didn’t come into the League with his trademark move. It took him several seasons to develop it. Lin developed his at Harvard. That’s one key factor in the Lin equation—four years of college ball. This is the known quantity in the equation.
But how about speed—the pure athleticism that blue chip recruits possess? Speed is a key attribute for a point guard. He has to be able to penetrate and break down the defense. So, how do Lin’s speed numbers compare with the top NBA point guards? The good news is we can compare apples to apples. Portsmouth does the same tests as the NBA Combine, and BAM administers the tests.
Brett Brungardt, BAM’s founder and former NBA strength and conditioning coach (Dallas Mavericks, 2000-2002), breaks down Lin’s speed numbers.
“Lin’s numbers are very impressive,” Brungardt says. “In the three-quarter court sprint, which is 25 yards, Lin’s BAM numbers compare favorably to Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving.”
So how fast is Jeremy Lin?
BAM gives three numbers: average speed, start speed, and top-end speed. BAM translates this into miles per hour. Average speed is calculated by an algorithm that averages start speed and top speed. Start speed is the first burst of speed, the acceleration phase. Top speed is shifting gears out of the acceleration to one’s peak speed. Here’s how Lin’s BAM numbers compare in the 25 yard sprint.
Jeremy Lin: 16.66 mph
Derrick Rose: 16.60 mph
John Wall: 16.48 mph
Kyrie Irving: 15.67 mph
Lin wins this battle.
Lin: 13.93 mph
Wall: 13.25 mph
Irving: 12.64 mph
For Rose, BAM has only average speed data.
Lin wins this battle too.
Lin: 18.85 mph
Wall: 19.30 mph
Irving: 18.74 mph
Lin comes in second to Wall.
Lin’s speed, combined with his court skills and his basketball intelligence, make his emergence as an effective NBA player a little less surprising. It also explains why he’s made NBA teams, even if he was eventually released with very little playing time. To get an NBA contract means scouts and coaches were sufficiently impressed.
“Speed and acceleration are key components of athletic success,” Brungardt explains. “Standardized testing and BAM’s added data points for start speed and top speed give scouts the information they need to evaluate a player’s athleticism. The numbers show that speed-wise, Lin is in the elite ballpark.”
Is speed, plus four years of college ball, the new formula for NBA success? Has Lin cracked the code? Are there more Jeremy Lins out there? Regardless, we have one more piece of the Lin puzzle. He’s fast.
To read more about Jeremy Lin’s numbers go to the BAM Blog.
Kurt Brungardt has been writing on sports and fitness for over 15 years. His books include the bestseller, The Complete Book of Abs. He also writes for Vanity Fair and Men’s Health. In the name of full disclosure, Brett Brungardt is his brother.