Feb 7, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (11) against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Lamb is ready to contribute

Ever since he was acquired from the Houston Rockets as part of the James Harden trade, I’ve loved Jeremy Lamb. It’s not because we share a similar name, although that does help, but it’s because I know how good of a player he can be. When Harden was traded to Houston, Lamb was the key guy in return. Everyone knew that Kevin Martin was only going to spend one year in Oklahoma City before heading to free agency and no one knew how the draft picks would turn out, although it’s safe to say that Steven Adams is a hit.

Lamb was the guy I looked at in the deal as, “this is the player Sam Presti wanted for the future. This is the player who could potentially replace Harden as a high-scoring sixth man.” Presti is one of the smartest general managers in the league with a keen eye for talent. There’s a reason why a lot of his draft picks turn out so well and he obviously saw something in Lamb, who was the #12 pick in 2012 draft, otherwise it’s doubtful that he would’ve accepted the trade from Houston.

When Lamb didn’t see much playing time last season, I understood. The Thunder wanted to maximize what they could get out of Martin before he fled. That said, when Russell Westbrook went down in the first round against the Rockets and Lamb still couldn’t get off the bench, I was a little baffled. The knock on Lamb was that he was a rookie with no playoff experience. Well, the same could’ve been said for Reggie Jackson, who thrust into the starting role with no Westbrook. And the only way to get playoff experience, is to play in playoff games. By not playing Lamb in last years playoffs, Lamb entered this season with the same question, “he’s going to get more playing time with Martin gone, but he still have no playoff experience.”

Up until March, Lamb was a strong contributor off the OKC bench. He averaged 10 points a game and contributed in the rebounding game as well. Then OKC signed Caron Butler, and Lamb was back to square one. He once again couldn’t get off the bench unless the game wasn’t close and whatever goodwill he built up during the season seemed to be forgotten by head coach Scott Brooks.

In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Lamb played a combined 20 minutes in 13 games. 12 of those minutes came in the game one blowout loss against the Los Angeles Clippers.

I didn’t have faith in Brooks playing Lamb in the conference finals against the San Antonio Spurs, but Serge Ibaka‘s injury changed things in the first two games as Brooks drew names out of a hat to determine his lineups and Lamb’s name came up more than once. In game two, Lamb had 13 points in 14 minutes and two steals. Whether it was that or something else (like Thabo Sefolosha‘s complete ineffectiveness in the series), despite Ibaka returning to the lineup, Brooks showed some faith in Lamb in game three.

Brooks played a lineup that I can’t get off the floor in NBA 2K14: Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka. It’s a long and athletic group that can disrupt the offense and get whatever they want on the offensive end. That lineup, and Steven Adams’ eventual replacement of Ibaka, sparked an OKC run that put them up at the half, where they didn’t look back.

In game four, when Reggie Jackson went down early with an ankle injury, Brooks went with Lamb, once again showing that he might be gaining confidence in the second year player. Lamb played 19 minutes and finished with seven points, three rebounds, and three steals. A solid all-around performance by a guy who couldn’t get on the floor in the first two rounds.

Anyone who watched Lamb at UConn knew that the kid had talent. In his sophomore season, he averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s a sharpshooter who can create his own shot and get to the paint. People questioned and reasoned that Brooks didn’t use Lamb because of his defense, but he’s always been a solid defender. He has length, quick hands, and active feet.

Jeremy Lamb is ready to contribute for the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Sefolosha likely leaving after this season, it’s very possible that Lamb will be the starting shooting guard for the team next year. He should be playing more minutes than Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. He might not have the playoff experience of those two, but he can do everything they can and then some. Oklahoma City’s advantage against the Spurs is their youth and athleticism. Lamb provides that for OKC, Fisher and Butler don’t. Fisher and Butler are still strong contributors, but Lamb is the more versatile player who gives the Thunder more options.

Not only would playing Lamb now be beneficial for OKC, but it would be beneficial for their future as well since he’ll likely be in Oklahoma City until 2017. Hopefully Brooks continues to realize this and we’ll see more Jeremy Lamb as the title quest continues.

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