Once seen as a throw-in as part of the James Harden trade, Jeremy Lamb is proving not just to the Oklahoma City Thunder staff, but to the entire NBA that he is not just making up the numbers. Flourishing in his new-found role off the Thunder bench, Lamb is having a huge year which includes career nights and regular improvement.
Watching Lamb play, you can see that he is becoming more and more confident in his own skill, and Oklahoma is becoming increasingly trusting of his ability to play at a high level.
Those who may not have seen Lamb play before might think he is a young shot-jacking shooting guard, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is clear that he has spent countless hours on his game and studying game footage of Thunder star Kevin Durant, and the proof is in his play.
Lamb is a very efficient player. His works well without the ball in his hands and takes the right shots more often than not. Coming out of Connecticut, Lamb was one of those players who needed the ball in his hand to be effective. He relied on creating his own shot off the dribble and using his incredible wingspan to get past defenders.
His play in the D-League and subsequently the NBA Summer League really showcased just how far he had come in a short span of time, and that has translated to a very meaningful role off the Oklahoma City Thunder bench.
Now the Thunder are looking at a very large stretch of games without their All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. This period of time will really test the young Thunder bench, especially Reggie Jackson and Lamb. Jackson will slot straight into the starting lineup where he performed admirably in last season’s playoffs, and the scoring punch from the second unit will be thrust upon Lamb.
Replacing Harden and more recently Kevin Martin‘s production off the bench had been the focus of the Thunder this offseason. They tried to land Mike Miller but when they missed out on his services, they promoted from within and decided that the sixth man role would be played by not one, but two talented young guards. Jackson and Lamb have stepped up and played the role superbly, which has helped the Thunder to a record that is among the best in the league.
This dynamic is now going to have to change, and how well Lamb can perform for the Thunder will be a key factor in how many games they can win while Westbrook heals on the sidelines. When the starters rest, will Lamb be able to take over games and produce the points needed to keep Oklahoma City in games?
Albeit based on a very small sample size, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. Lamb had a career-high 22 points and also had five assists as the Thunder took apart their Western Conference rival Houston Rockets. In an extremely efficient and effective output, the maturation of the young guard was evident.
This is what the Thunder expected when they traded Harden away, and Lamb is proving to be a very valuable asset.