Wesley Saunders: The Next Jeremy Lin?

The New York Knicks made headlines this week, making two moves that nobody anticipated. They signed undrafted rookies Wesley Saunders and Darion Atkins to non guaranteed deals, giving them a shot to make the roster during training camp.

Wesley Saunders brings an interesting storyline to the Knicks, potentially being the first Havard athlete to make the NBA since Jeremy Lin.

Saunders actually has a fighting chance at the Knicks roster too. They could use one final guard, and signing someone with the upside of Saunders is a perfect fit. He is coming off a very good season at Harvard in which he averaged 16.6 PPG on 45.3% shooting overall and 42.5% from deep. He also led the Ivy League with 1.8 steals per game, and was known for his sensational defense. He had a 91.2 defensive rating compared to a 113.8 offensive rating, two excellent numbers.

 Stu Rosner
Stu Rosner

The similarities between him and Lin are also staggering. Both are California natives who played four full seasons at Havard. Both were in the Top 10 in nine Ivy League categories, and went undrafted before being signed to an unguaranteed contract. Their stats as seniors at Harvard are also eerily similar.

Saunders- 16.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 6.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG

Lin- 16.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 SPG,

The two were also coached by Tommy Amaker, and he had this to say about the comparison.

“I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison, not that Jeremy didn’t have to guard the best offensive player sometimes, but it wasn’t ever like every night. Like every night, Wesley has to guard the best perimeter player that we go against. Every night, every game — whether it’s an afternoon game or a night game. That’s who he has. Now to think that he has to do that on that end and then is doing what he’s doing on the other end, I mean, it’s fantastic…in some ways, what I’m trying to say is that his responsibilities are even higher [than Lin’s were] because of what we ask him to do defensively. He’s been a dynamic defensive player, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for that aspect in addition to what we ask him to do off. That package there blows me away. I’ve had to apologize to him for how much I ask of him. I’m not saying he should be Jeremy Lin, but he’s capable of those kinds of things.”

Saunders will have a similar role to what Lin had in his stint with the Knicks as well- a bottom of the barrel bench player who will not see many minutes until he earns them.

Despite that, this signing was a very good one for the Knicks. Low risk, high reward player who can easily be cut if he struggles. The biggest concern with him was him mostly playing subpar competition in the Ivy League, but he did prove himself against bigger schools.

Wesley Saunders’ Top Nonconference Performances (via Bleacher Report)
Date Opponent Points Rebounds Assists
Nov. 13, 2012 UMass 18 1 5
Nov. 20, 2012 Saint Joseph’s 18 9 6
Dec. 4, 2012 Boston College 18 4 5
Dec. 29, 2012 California 18 3 1
March 21, 2013 New Mexico 18 4 3
Dec. 7, 2013 Boston University 25 5 5
Jan. 1, 2014 Boston College 21 6 2
March 22, 2014 Michigan State 22 3 2
Nov. 25, 2014 Houston 24 10 4
Dec. 28, 2014 Arizona State 15 3 3
March 19, 2015 North Carolina 26 4 5

The Knicks have been devoid of young talent for years, and this signing just helps fix that. If he can do even half of what Jeremy Lin did with the Knicks, this signing will be a major success.

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