Though Martin was brought in as a more immediate replacement in the James Harden trade, Lamb was acquired with more long-term plans in mind. Thunder general manager Sam Presti certainly had in mind that Martin’s contract was expiring and that him leaving Oklahoma City was a very real possibility.
As it turns out, Martin’s stint in OKC proved to be short-lived, but the Thunder luckily have a possible fail-safe on their roster already.
Lamb was used rather sparingly in his rookie year. When he wasn’t playing for the Thunder’s D-League affiliate in Tulsa, Lamb would rarely see court time in Oklahoma City as he only played a total of 147 minutes over 23 games last season.
Don’t let his minor role last year fool you, though. Oklahoma City is starting to develop a reputation for slowly easing their young talent into roles on the team. This technique has proven to be successful so far as we saw with the breakout performance by Reggie Jackson during this last postseason.
Much like Jackson was forced into his larger role due to Russell Westbrook’s injury, Lamb is now being forced into his increased role due to Martin’s departure.
But is Lamb ready for such a big step up? Absolutely.
Even in his stints with the Tulsa 66ers, Lamb often looked like a man amongst boys when playing against the weaker competition of the D-League.
In terms of his offensive skill set, Lamb could potentially offer even more than Martin did. Instead of relying solely on his jump shot, Lamb’s offensive game incorporates his long wingspan and freakish athleticism to create his own shot.
When the Thunder brought in Martin, they lost a lot of the versatility that Harden brought to the table. Lamb, though, has the potential to bring some of that back.
There’s certainly a lot of pressure and expectation weighing on Lamb right now, since the focus is shifting onto him to produce for an NBA contender. Though he wouldn’t be starting, Lamb is in line to become one of the primary options for the Thunder’s second unit of players.
Speaking of the second unit, they would definitely enjoy a much-needed scoring boost who can conjure up offense basically on demand. As for when the starters are in, Lamb would also fit in nicely with the likes of Westbrook and Durant by providing spacing on the floor due to his quality shooting range.
It may feel a bit early to try and determine whether Lamb could contribute or not. However, the fact that he was a lottery pick in 2012 is at least one indicator that this guy has the potential to contribute his fair share to any team.
There are also other factors that are in Lamb’s favor, such as the fact that he’s playing with two legitimate superstars as well as another solid player in Serge Ibaka. For Lamb, that means there will be times where the defense sags off of him or loses track of him due to his talented teammates, and he will certainly capitalize on those opportunities.
Additionally, Lamb hasn’t seen a lot of playing time with the Thunder, which means a lot of teams don’t really have a firm read on him yet. Therefore, Lamb has the benefit of playing under the radar against teams that will probably not be game-planning with him in mind.
The question isn’t really whether Lamb is ready for a bigger role or not. It’s more about how well he will react to it.
I fully believe that Lamb has everything it takes and more to be a pretty special player in this league. Even though a lot of guys drafted as high as he was (No. 12 overall) wouldn’t be too happy with those D-League stints, being in a winning environment with a larger role in his second year will surely diminish any negative feelings in Lamb.
Based on what are admittedly small sample sizes, though, there could still be a lot of skepticism in the air. However, that skepticism could easily be outweighed by the potential of what Lamb could do for the Thunder in the upcoming season.
At the very least, Lamb could fill in Martin’s role. His scoring average may be a bit lower since he would have to adjust to the NBA pace on a nightly basis, but the star power around him would easily be able to pick up that slack.
Even if there are people out there or within the organization who don’t think that Lamb is quite ready, Oklahoma City doesn’t really have any other option with their limited cap room and limited trade assets, as well.
Lamb is definitely the best and the only option for the Thunder right now in terms of a reserve shooting guard. However, if Jackson set any precedent for the young players in OKC, it would be that sometimes the best play can be brought out when the pressure is at its highest.
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