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Looking back at Jeremy Lamb's uneven defense

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Despite ranking sixth in the league among shooting guards in defensive real plus-minus, Jeremy Lamb tends to be spotty on defense. What are his main flaws and how good is he overall?

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Keeping offensive players on one side of the court and denying them the middle is an everyday task for today's NBA players, especially those on the perimeter. As an offensive player, you simply have more space and more opportunities when operating with the ball towards the middle of the court. Due to that strategies like icing (or downing), the pick-and-roll are commonplace.

For the Charlotte Hornets' Jeremy Lamb, keeping opposing players away from the middle can be a troubling task. He tends to struggle with navigating his way around screens and in result gives up too many drives to the middle. Sometimes Lamb doesn't expect screens at all, which stop him dead in his tracks.

However, being ready (or rather not being ready) for them isn't necessarily the sole problem with Lamb. At times, even when he knows the pick is coming, he can get too jumpy and still get faked out of his shoes. Lamb will try to deny one lane and end up giving up the other one by being overly eager.

Similar issues apply to the former Oklahoma City Thunder guard when the task at hand is tracking an opposing player through screens. When he's not getting hit by screens like in the video above, the shooting guard tends to take long routes around the bigs who are setting them. Even if the picks are avoided, Lamb falls back way too far from his assignment.

One has to assume that the somewhat skinny Lamb just isn't built for getting through screens. Even though a lot of this still can be executed by a savvy defensive player, bigger guards tend to have an easier time tracking players through picks.

On the other hand, there are also benefits to his lankiness. Per Draft Express, the 6'5" guard sports an impressive 6'11" wingspan. With such long hands, Lamb can snatch the ball out of the air in situations where other guards wouldn't be able to do so.

This length is also useful on the defensive end of the floor. Lamb can read an upcoming pass and make football-like interceptions.

Jeremy Lamb's wingspan also makes him a recovery threat as he can fly back in the picture and block his man's shot or poke the ball away.

Plays like these suggest that there is potential for the four-year veteran to become a good defensive player. While his rather slight physique is likely to prevent him from ever successfully guarding stronger wings, however, Lamb can always try to compensate for that with his long arms.

Moreover, on/off stats have been extremely kind to the soon-to-be 24-year-old. The Hornets have only given up 95.7 points per 100 possessions with Lamb on the court, the best mark among all Charlotte's players (the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seven-game comeback notwithstanding).

Furthermore, ESPN's real plus-minus, which should account for the lack of strength of Lamb's usual opposition (seeing as he mostly faces second units), has the wing as the sixth best defensive shooting guard in the league, according to DRPM (defensive real plus-minus).

Personally, I would still take that data with a grain of salt. The eye-test doesn't speak well of Lamb's performance on defense. His trouble with screens or even getting blown past on a drive can get bad, yes, but Lamb is also prone of major mental lapses. He can get completely lost on defense to the degree that he just can't find his man. Sometimes he'll space out and forget about him just for so long that he match-up can get an open shot:

You also have to acknowledge the fact that on/off data can take some real time before its randomness is completely lost. After all, the previous season Jeremy Lamb ranked as the 52nd best two-guard out of the 81 guards on the list.

All in all though, it should count for at least something. Lamb is still relatively young and could improve after more time under Steve Clifford's tutelage. His 21-million extension remains a bargain under the upcoming salary cap and it would become even more valuable if the 2-guard improved his game over this summer.