To the outside eye Jeremy Lamb was seen as the “throw in” element of the James Harden trade – however as a Thunder (and basketball) fan the signs were always there that Jeremy Lamb would turn out to be a very special player. GM Sam Presti saw it, head coach Scott Brooks has seen it and now the Thunder faithful and entire basketball community are seeing it – Jeremy Lamb is the real deal.
Watching Lamb efficiently score his 19 points against the Portland Trailblazers, hitting jumpers in rhythm, taking the right shots, knocking down key long range bombs at crucial moments in the pressure-filled game – you couldn’t help but be excited for the kid. Forever having to live up to the hype of replacing James Harden at the shooting guard spot in OKC can’t be much fun, yet the sleepy-eyed sharp shooter seems to be handling it alright. Playing alongside Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson and the rest of the Thunder crew, Lamb looks at home. In fact, he looks like he belongs – and he really does.
Superbly talented, he has proven this season that his play in the D-League and the Summer League was no fluke, and he has become a key cog in the well oiled Thunder machine. He has shown a more polished and consistent jumpshot, has obviously worked extremely hard on his defense and he is playing within the system, at the right pace and with poise. It is hard to believe that he is still just 21 years old.
The numbers aren’t going to blow you away (10ppg, 2.8rpg and 1.7apg) but he is a very respectable 14.97 PER and if you watch the Thunder in action, he is playing a lot better than his stats may show.
Consistency is always going to be an issue with young players, but it is probably highlighted a little more with Lamb. He averages 22 minutes of action per night, but it comes in spurts – depending largely on matchups, rotations etc. He played just 12 minutes against the Memphis Grizzlies totaling four points on 33% shooting, then a week later he plays 31 minutes, scores 19 points on 73% shooting including 2-2 from 3pt range, adds 5 rebounds and 2 assists as he is an integral part of a huge Thunder win against a division rival on the road.
Such is the life of a budding young star.
After playing just 23 games for the Thunder in his rookie season (and averaging just six minutes in those contests – largely in garbage time) this seasons development seems all the more impressive. In 25 of the Thunders 54 games he has scored in double figures. He has developed a great chemistry with Reggie Jackson and Nick Collison in the second unit, but is also carving out a nice role with the starters. His length helps him not to just get his shot away, but also helps create havoc on the defensive end – in the passing lanes and pressuring the ball handler. When you already have Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka and of course, Kevin Durant putting up big offensive numbers, you need to do something else to ensure your value.
Watching Lamb play, you can tell that he has focused on emulating teammate Kevin Durant. He has a similar lanky and lengthy frame with an uncanny knack for putting the ball in the basket. He may not be as tall or as strong yet – but you can see the development and career trajectory. His development speaks to his work ethic and the Thunder franchise and teammates have nothing but positive things to say about their super sophomore.
Being able to contribute on any team is a huge confidence boost for any young player. Being able to contribute on a championship contender with two superstars and a 42-12 record with just one game to go before the All Star break has to really make an impression on you.
In the post All Star break run to the playoffs, things are going to change in OKC. The Thunder will welcome back Russell Westbrook, which is going to provide the Thunder will a full strength lineup. The rotations will change slightly and the offense will now have to re-cater for another super scorer but the Thunder will still rely on getting valuable minutes from Jeremy Lamb – and he seems poised to deliver when required.