Player Forecast on Jeremy Lamb
Position: Shooting Guard
Weight: 185 lbs.
Reasons for Optimism:
As Lamb enters his third season with Charlotte and the second season of his three-year, $21mm contract extension with the team, the jury is still out on the 25-year old.
It will be hard to ever view Lamb as a real negative contract for the Hornets – Rich Cho acquired him in the summer of ’15 basically for free. Cho used the peace-pipe non-guaranteed contracts of Matt Barnes (came to Charlotte in Lance Stephenson trade with Clippers) and Luke Ridnour (was literally a Hornet for 24 hours) to ultimately get the Thunder off Lamb’s money so that they could shed salary in an attempt to retain restricted free-agent Enes Kanter. Cho and the front office would go on to extend Jeremy Lamb for the aforementioned three years, $21mm ahead of the league extension deadline for players on the final year of their rookie deal.
It’s tough to evaluate whether or not Lamb will live up to the extension he got from Charlotte, but there are two years remaining on his contract and he’s still only 25. Truth be told, I will always own property on J-Lamb Island. Have always believed in his potential and there’s still time for things to start clicking.
In the ’16-’17 season, J-Lamb’s true shooting percentage, rebounding rate and turnover rate all improved. This is the main reason his PER jumped from a 15.9 in ’15-’16 to a 17.0 last season. In fact, his PER has now improved in each of his five NBA seasons. A slow, steady, and quite underrated improvement is taking place more than some realize.
J-Lamb is already an above average rebounder for a wing. His wingspan is on full display when snatching rebounds over bigger players in traffic.
Learning how to get to your spots as a scorer is what separates the good from the elite, and J-Lamb showed much more intelligence offensively in ’16-’17. Check out how efficient Lamb was at scoring from less than 10-feet last season, and how often he got there.
Lamb has become very good with creative finishes around the basket. He still pounds the ball too much hunting his shot and must become better at getting to his sweet spots more efficiently, but let me throw a stat at you that might blow your mind. When using 7+ dribbles in a play last season, J-Lamb shot 55.7% on 2FG. This only consisted of 12.4% of his total offense, but it’s still a pretty unbelievable clip and the sign of a good isolation scorer. Again, if he could just learn to get into that scoring motion quicker, but focus on the positive – Lamb is learning how to get to that spot and finishing consistently.
J-Lamb uses his long arms to finish over defenders and has become quite proficient at converting on long floaters in the lane (72% in ’16-’17). He pretty much exclusively goes left, but this awkward floater is becoming a real weapon I’d expect to see even more of this season.
If J-Lamb is able to get a head of steam towards the basket going left then there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to finish. Running layups have also become one of his specialties and a shot that he finishes very consistently. Lamb’s length makes his layups difficult to block or even contest. He converted 28-34 (82.4%) on this type of shot last season – incredible clip.
The legend of J-Lamb’s ability to become an effective pick-and-roll ball-handler isn’t dead yet. He shot 43.7% in the PnR last season as the ball-handler and it represented 40.3% of his offense. Lamb also got to the free-throw line 12.4% of the time when running the PnR and only turned the ball over at a low 8.2% frequency. When you run these numbers through the magic Synergy machine, it puts J-Lamb in the 81.9% percentile of PnR ball-handlers.
Slow and steady improvement is happening, but ultimately can J-Lamb secure more of a role in this rotation?
Reasons for Pessimism:
During his two seasons with the Hornets the playing time under Steve Clifford has fluctuated. Lamb has struggled to identify a key reserve role with this team due to the inconsistencies in his game. Most notably, his disinterest defensively and streaky three-point shooting have made it difficult for Clifford to trust Lamb.
With close to a seven-foot wingspan, he has little excuse to not be an effective defender on the wing. Lamb’s 185-190 pound frame doesn’t play to his favor, but the real issue is the lack of commitment shown in spurts defensively.
Lamb has made strides with his effort. He understands this is what is going to earn him playing time under Steve Clifford. It’s the lack of awareness that seems to always be a problem and he’s often a step behind whatever is coming next from the offense. Whether that is a testament of how little time he spends watching film and studying the game away from the court, or if it’s simply a processing issue for Lamb, he’ll have to fix it in order to stick around in the league long-term.
Here, Lamb gets caught ball watching against Avery Bradley in a vital late game defensive possession. Bradley recognizes this, uses the Horford pin-down, and when Lamb realizes what is happening he attempts to cheat / go under screen, resulting in him predictably getting burned by the high IQ Avery Bradley.
He must become more consistent on the defensive end to earn the trust of Steve Clifford. Lamb will also likely be pushed by Treveon Graham for reserve minutes on the wing this season. Graham had a strong summer league showing for the Hornets and has proven to be the more consistent wing defender at this stage. Graham doesn’t have the versatility and skill-set to score the ball that J-Lamb does, but he fits the popular “3-and-D” role more seamlessly than Lamb and that could very well be what Charlotte needs more. The battle between these two will be something to keep an eye on during training camp.
Lamb’s three-point shooting has never been a strength of his game, but the difference between his career shooting numbers from deep improving from where they are currently (32.4%) could mean everything for the longevity of his NBA career. Lamb was less than 30% shooting from behind the arc when defenders were 4-6 feet away from him (wide open) last season. That’s pretty terrible.
The spotty mechanics have long been a problem for J-Lamb. Here, we see defensive miscommunication that leaves him wide open – Lamb shoots on the way down with the result being a short miss.
If there are teams out there believing there’s more to unlock in J-Lamb’s game, which there is, and that they can pull it off then keep an eye on him as a player inserted into trade rumors sooner than later. New Orleans is in need of a wing player immediately after the Solomon Hill injury news depleted what was already a thin rotation. Lamb would also be a contract teams could talk themselves into at the deadline if desperate – he’s an expiring entering the ’18-’19 season and is only owed $7.4mm.
There’s little doubt that J-Lamb’s future has plenty of uncertainty and his game needs improvement.
Number to Know:
Jeremy Lamb is a career 32.4% three-point shooter and plummeted to 28% last season. If he’s able to make the game simpler on himself when necessary, get tons of reps in with his catch-and-shoot triples, and ultimately attain a season shooting mark of 35%+ from behind the arc then it could represent the difference in taking the next step with the evolution of his game.
The time has come for J-Lamb to earn his keep in this league. The Hornets threw the then 23-year old a bone by extending his contract back in the summer of 2015. Now he has hungry up-and-coming wings Treveon Graham and Malik Monk vying for his minutes off the bench. Clifford has always elected to play experience over youth, so that likely gives Lamb the upper-hand for minutes at SG off the bench to start the season. As we’ve learned in the past, though, that leash will be short.
The departure of veteran Marco Belinelli also cracks a door of opportunity open for Lamb. There’s really no reason for him not to be the first SG off the bench for Charlotte.
I expect J-Lamb to continue his quiet ascension of improvement in his game. Becoming a better offensive player off the ball is important, especially in lineups where he shares the floor with other ball-handlers such as Michael Carter-Williams and Malik Monk. Again, becoming a more efficient catch-and-shoot three-point shooter is vital – I predict Lamb will shoot north of 32.5% from deep this season. It can happen. I’ve seen glimpses.
Showing more of a commitment defensively and improved awareness is hard to measure, but I do expect J-Lamb to improve in this area. He needs more minutes and an identified role if he wants to get to another long-term contract in the NBA. The keeper of that treasure chest is Steve Clifford and defense is what unlocks Lamb’s future, so it’s time for the 25-year old to pay the piper on the defensive end. J-Lamb has to understand the importance of this and how he is more than capable of making a difference on that end of the floor.
The rebounding prowess as a wing should continue. Getting to his spots more efficiently should continue. The opportunity to be a creator of offense on the second side might be even greater in ’17-’18 if he is indeed the first SG off the bench. All the chances for Lamb to become an above average wing in the NBA should be present this season and I expect him to take full advantage, giving the front office a tough decision of whether to trade him or face having to pay up in the summer of ’19.