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NBA Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeremy Lamb Will Win the Most Improved Player Award in 2015

Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder

Mark D. Smith-USA Today Sports

In 2014, Jeremy Lamb played a relatively insignificant role for the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 8.5 points in 19.7 minutes per game off the bench. Lamb’s skill set has yet to be put on display in comparison to the other big names of the 2012 NBA Draft – Anthony DavisBradley Beal and Damian Lillard – who seem to be on the cusp of superstardom. A combination of fate, chance and Sam Presti brought Lamb to OKC as a part of the James Harden trade, but the former Connecticut star has yet to blossom into the polished wing guard they hoped he’d be, complementing the offensive juggernaut captained by reigning league MVP Kevin Durant and freak-of-nature athlete Russell Westbrook.

It’s fairly difficult to evaluate Lamb at this current point in his career in comparison to his draft counterparts for one simple reason: limited exposure. In his rookie season, Lillard averaged 38.6 minutes per game on a less than stellar Portland Trailblazers ball club, developing momentous confidence to accompany his unique
skill set.

In comparison, Lamb rode the pine for more than 85 percent of the game, seeing a touch over six minutes of court time in his rookie campaign. He shot the ball a mere three times per contest at a 35 percent clip. In his second season, his minutes went up and so did his production: 43.2 percent from the floor, shooting 7.8 attempts per game.

Watching a significant portion of Oklahoma City’s games this season, I noticed Lamb deferred in numerous situations that perhaps called for aggression. When handling the ball, he rarely looked for his own shot. On a team with two of the top seven or eight players in the NBA, why wouldn’t he? However, a combination of lack of confidence and court time could be the cause of the deference. In the 26 games Westbrook missed, Lamb exhibited flashes of offensive prowess, pouring in performances of 19, 22, 19, 17, 18, 14, 19, 12, 10, 12 and 11 points. Though these numbers do not tell the whole story, it may foreshadow brilliance to come.

On July 1st, Thabo Sefalosha will become a free agent, creating a gaping hole at the two-guard starting position for the Thunder, a slot Lamb will likely slide into for the 2014-15 season. In order for the Thunder to excel, Lamb’s increase in offensive production must parallel his certain increase in playing time. He will become the primary option offensively when Durant and Westbrook rest. He’s shown the ability to score the ball, averaging 17.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting in the Big East, one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball. In that second year of college after Kemba Walker‘s departure, Lamb grasped the leadership role with two fists and became the number one, two and three option for the Huskies.

In 2015, Lamb’s exposure will force him to take hold of Oklahoma City’s second unit the same way he did the UConn team. He’ll average close to 30 minutes a game and become the number three offensive option, leapfrogging Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson. He’ll use his offensive creativeness to obtain, regain, hold and extend leads during moments in which the two superstars are not performing or not on the court. He will average close to 17 points per game and become the ultimate equalizer to the defensive double teams Westbrook and Durant know all too well. He will win the 2015 Most Improved Player Award and enter the “best players of the 2012 draft” discussion. Watch out Lillard and Davis; Lamb is coming for you.

 

Matt Barnes is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @mpb9792. Add him or like him on Facebook or add him on your Google network.