Although many NBA players begin to show signs of the type of player they’ll eventually become, during the first couple of years of their career, sometimes it takes a little bit longer. Such is the case for the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeremy Lamb.
Lamb was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the 2012 draft, but he never suited up for them as he was part of the trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder that brought James Harden to the Rockets. His first three seasons in the league with the Thunder were very inconsistent. He spent much of his rookie season in the NBA’s G-League with the then Tulsa 66ers.
His second year, he looked poised to become the sharpshooting wing scorer that many thought he’d develop into when he was drafted. His minutes increased from 6.4 to 19.7. He saw action in 78 of the Thunder’s 81 games and averaged 8.5 points per game with 35.6 percent shooting from the three-point line. Everything changed the following year, however.
The Thunder brought in veteran sharpshooter Anthony Morrow at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. His presence cut into Lamb’s playing time, as did the midseason acquisition of Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lamb saw his minutes decrease to 13.5, and he only saw action in 47 games.
That summer, he was traded to the Hornets in hopes that he could provide some much-needed wing production. Right at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the Hornets signed Lamb to a three-year contract extension. Over the past two years, Lamb has seen his numbers rise back to his second year Oklahoma City level production. This current season, however, he’s truly broken out.
When it was announced that Nicolas Batum was going to miss the start of the season due to an elbow injury, Lamb found himself thrust into the starting lineup at shooting guard. He’s seized the opportunity and hasn’t looked back.
With a 5-4 record so far, the Hornets find themselves right in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. Lamb is enjoying career-highs across the board with 18.1 points per game in about 30 minutes per, 55 percent shooting from the three-point line, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 4.6 free throw attempts.
The Hornets recently went on a three-game winning streak which saw them post victories over the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, and Milwaukee Bucks, all of whom have gotten off to very good starts. During that stretch, Lamb averaged 17.7 points on 50.6 percent shooting from the field, 83.3 percent from downtown, and six rebounds. Against the Magic, he had a career-best seven assists.
In their most recent game, albeit a 108-101 loss on Friday night to the San Antonio Spurs, Lamb had a career and game-high 27 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals.
When Batum eventually returns to the lineup, the Hornets will have an interesting decision to make. Batum has been relatively solid in his two years so far in Charlotte. Last season he averaged a career-high 15.1 points per game. He is no doubt a starter, and his defensive ability gives him a big advantage over Lamb.
The other starting wing, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, has been relatively underwhelming for a No.2 overall pick albeit being a great defensive player. They could try moving Kidd-Gilchrist to the bench and keeping Lamb in the starting lineup. Lamb’s explosiveness this season should not go unnoticed. Whatever decision head coach Steve Clifford makes, one thing is for sure, Lamb has proven beyond a doubt that he can perform at this level.
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