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Jeremy Lamb’s hot start key to Hornets’ success without Nicolas Batum

Jeremy Lamb looks to be headed for a breakout season.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

When Nicolas Batum tore a ligament in his elbow during the preseason, things were looking bleak for the Charlotte Hornets. The team would be without their leader in assists and rebounds, and their second-leading scorer, for at least the first month of the season.

Thankfully, the Hornets have been able to tread water, and currently sit in ninth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 5-6 record. And much of the credit for that okay start must go to Batum’s replacement, Jeremy Lamb.

Prior to the 2017-18 season, Lamb’s career-highs were 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, respectively. Through the first nine games of this year, Jeremy is averaging 17.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.

Lamb is also averaging career-highs in offensive rating, assist ratio, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. His emergence on the offense has been huge for the Hornets in the early going.

Part of Lamb’s success can be attributed to the added minutes he’s receiving due to Batum’s absence, but we cannot overlook that he’s also shooting a career-high 45.5 percent from 3-point range and 47.2 percent from the field. He clearly used the offseason to work on his game and it’s showing up in the box score.

He’s getting in the paint more often and is almost exclusively shooting from the left-side of the floor. In fact, Lamb has knocked down 6-of-7 3-point attempts from the left corner of the court.

Defensively, Lamb has shown more concerted effort than we have seen in the past. He posted a 102.2 defensive rating through the Hornets’ first ten games, the same as Rudy Gobert over that same stretch, He also posting a .038 in defensive win shares, which is the same as Mike Conley and Patrick Beverley, and better than guys like Marc Gasol and Draymond Green.

It will be interesting to see what Steve Clifford decides to do when Nic’s ready to return in the next few weeks. In order to reinsert Batum into the starting lineup, either Lamb or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have to be moved to the bench.

Prior to the season, it seemed like a no-brainer that Lamb would be moved to a sixth-man role when Batum was ready to return. But with Jeremy’s strong start and MKG’s absence for much of this season because of family, it might make more sense for Lamb to remain in the starting lineup.

Either way, the Hornets are moving closer and closer to returning to full health, and with the emergence of Jeremy Lamb, the rest of the Eastern Conference should be put on notice.