Jeremy Lamb will be entering in his third season with the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, and he should see a significant role with the team this year with the departure of Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher and Caron Butler.
During the 2013-14 regular season, these three players accounted for roughly 70 minutes of playing time per game with the Thunder when they were all actively on the roster. Someone like Anthony Morrow, who was brought in via free agency, will obviously eat up some of those minutes, but there is still a lot left for a guy like Lamb. He will no doubt be given a golden opportunity to showcase his skills in the upcoming season. Confidence is the most important aspect of his game that he must get a hold of before the season starts back up. His defense, not his 3-point shooting, could be just the place where he will find it.
In the first couple months of the season during December and January, Lamb averaged 10 points and 20 minutes of playing time per game. While doing so, he shot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point land as well during these two months. He started off hot and was more than serviceable off the bench for the Thunder. He had some off games early on, but it was expected from a guy with minimal experience, and its basketball, bad nights just happen.
Problems started to arise in the next two months after though. His minutes stayed right around the same still and his point average would only vary nominally, specifically in the month of February. Where he really started to falter, however, was his consistency. Lamb became erratically inconsistent and unreliable by dropping both his field goal percentage and his three point percentage by eight-nine percent in the month of February, and he would see his numbers continue to fall the following month in March.
The biggest struggle for Lamb is his confidence. In a game like basketball, confidence can carry you a long way. Lamb has a tendency, it seems, to check himself out of the game mentality when his shot isn’t falling. Right now he leans on shooting to get him going, so when he’s in a slump, his game as a whole takes a big hit. The biggest area that he can make a difference for the Thunder night in and night out is on the defensive end. It’s not fun to hear, and it’s even less fun to write about, but the truth is that it matters, especially if you play for the Thunder. Again, it’s basketball, he’ll have bad nights offensively. If he wants to receive consistent minutes for the whole season, he’ll have to increase his productively on the defensive end of the floor, or he’ll without a doubt lose minutes to other guys yet again this year.
Lamb has left much to be desired on that end of the floor, but has shown flashes of real potential as he did against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Some guys come in the league and are just pure shooters who don’t really bring anything else to the floor and that’s okay, you know what you’re getting and they serve their purpose. None of these guys have the raw athletic ability or the quickness that Lamb possesses though. He’s long with a 6-foot wingspan, does a good job of jumping the passing lanes, and is quick enough with his feet to stay in front of most defenders, but the effort just hasn’t been there. If he will grow this part of his game it can give him the confidence that he desperately needs night in and night out to take that next step as a player.
Whether starting or coming off the bench again, Lamb and his hopeful improvement defensively will be a key piece to the Thunder’s success this season.