Will Jeremy Lamb Meet Expectations for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Jared PorterCorrespondent IIOctober 26, 2013

Oct 17, 2013; Tulsa, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (11) handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second quarter at BOK Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard to get a read on the type of player Jeremy Lamb will be in the upcoming 2013-14 season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 21-year-old has all of the ability necessary to fill the void of recently departed sharpshooter Kevin Martin, but Lamb's performance in the Thunder's Summer League and preseason has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. 

The cause for concern over Lamb's inconsistencies is that he is expected to be receiving more minutes for the Thunder, and his performance could possibly be the catalyst to a successful season. 

Jeremy Lamb is off to a cold start for Oklahoma City http://t.co/oSm4WxsP9V

— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) October 11, 2013

Before we dig in to the hefty expectations of Lamb this season, let's take a look at the timeline of his short career with the Thunder.

Lamp was one of the players the Thunder acquired from the Houston Rockets in the infamous James Harden trade just a week before season's last season's start. He spent most of last year with the Thunder's D-League team, the Tulsa 66ers, and averaged 21 points per game on 49-percent shooting. 

During this past offseason, sharpshooter Kevin Martin—another player acquired in the Harden trade—parted ways with the Thunder, leaving a void at shooting guard. 

Thunder management chose to put their faith in Lamb, rather than signing another proven player to replace Martin. 

Since then, many eyes have been on Lamb as he makes his transition to a more crucial role for this Thunder team. And while he has shown glimmers of the effective player he could be, he has been far from consistent and has had his fair amount of shooting struggles. 

/Getty Images

So how will Lamb shape up in the Thunder's upcoming season?

Well, the thing the Thunder need from Lamb the most is for him to make his shots. He will get plenty of open looks with players like Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses, and Lamb will only get more open looks once Russell Westbrook returns from his knee injury. 

However, making open shots is easier said than done, and as cliché as that sounds, it's only fitting. After all, clichés have the tendency of revealing underlying truth. 

Lamb is certainly a prime example of a player making open shots look difficult. In the Thunder's preseason, Lamb shot just 36.7 percent from the field. Albeit, there is a lot of weight on the shoulders of the young guard, but the Thunder will need him to somehow work through his inexperience and start contributing on a nightly basis. 

Royce Young on DailyThunder.com noted the heavy burden placed upon the shoulders of Lamb, and how his performance will unfairly be compared to that of James Harden. 

Really, here’s the big issue in evaluating Lamb: James Harden. Everything he does is compared against Harden and with every miss, critics of the trade shake their heads and tisk-tisk Sam Presti. It’s not fair to evaluate the Harden trade in the vacuum of it being for Lamb and Adams, though. There are so many other factors to consider. Like, had the Thunder NOT traded Harden and instead just played out last season, they wouldn’t have either. Those that laugh at the Thunder for trading Harden for Lamb think this was some intentional deal and overlook the fact the Thunder’s hands were tied. Could they have waited until next summer and tried to find a different deal? Yes. But at the time, Harden’s trade value wasn’t at all what it would be now. Remember: The Thunder traded 2012 James Harden (who was definitely outstanding, mind you), not the 2013 one that’s an obvious superstar.

The Lamb-Harden comparisons will be made by Thunder fans because, well, it is only natural. It is a question of what the Thunder could be if they still had their Big Three of Durant, Westbrook and Harden. 

But the fact of the matter is that the Thunder have Jeremy Lamb. He's young, inexperienced and unfortunately, he is a big question mark for this team as he attempts to live up to unreachable expectations of being the type of player Harden was. 

But let's remember that we have seen a very small sample size from Lamb thus far. He still has the potential to be good, but we just don't know how good. 

Steven Adams is 20. Jeremy Lamb is 21. Both possible starters at their positions and could soon make folk change their tune re Harden trade.

— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) October 24, 2013

Lamb is a player with a lot of upside. When he gets in a rhythm, he can be a great scoring threat. It's safe to say he will not absolutely dominate in the upcoming season, but he doesn't necessarily need to. He simply needs to perform his role, which is make enough shots to be viewed as a threat. If that happens, opposing defenses will be forced to cover Lamb, leaving players like Durant and Westbrook with less pressure. 

Lamb does not need to be great, but he does need to be good. It's a lot to ask of a young player, but the Thunder don't have very many options. 

More from Young:

It’s hard to get adapted to the NBA. The speed of the game is hard to grasp and finding rhythm and confidence is difficult when things are buzzing by you and you’re trying to figure out how to make it all slow down. It’s just that those other players had the luxury of being given time to develop and progress without a spotlight of “They traded James Harden for this guy!?!?” beating down on them.

Is Jeremy Lamb going to be good? Is he going to validate Sam Presti? Can he be a suitable scorer off the bench? Will he ever make a 3-pointer? The questions are all fair and valid. It’s just way too early to try and answer any of them.

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