2017-18 statistics: 12.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game. 45.7 FG%, 37.0 3PT%
After yet another disappointing season for the Charlotte Hornets, one man remained consistent. That, my friends, was shooting guard/small forward Jeremy Lamb.
Lamb had to quickly provide the scoring punch earlier than expected to start the 2017-2018 season. With number two option Nicolas Batum out with a UCL tear back in the preseason, Lamb’s responsibility for the team dramatically increased. To everyone’s surprise, he lived up to the new role as a starter and thrived in it.
In his 18 games as a starter, Lamb averaged 15.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per contest. This play coming from a reserve to a starter hasn’t been by a Charlotte Hornets’ player since Jeremy Lin left back in 2015. Lamb was able to become the consistent second scorer and facilitator that the Hornets desperately needed when Batum went down.
When Batum came in the lineup on November 15, 2017, Lamb was shifted to become off the Hornets bench. Before Malik Monk ended the season strong with increased minutes, Lamb was the main focal point of the offense for the second unit. His main scoring tactic during that time breaking down defenders 1-on-1. Lamb would typically be on an island opposed to his defender and pursued in the following ways. One way was to use multiple crossovers and follow with a wide-open mid-range shot or driving inside for the tough basket down low. Another strategy was for Lamb to once again use the multiple crossover moves, but instead of driving inside, he would hit a fairly open three, which he made 37 percent of. This has moved Lamb into only one of three Hornets who can be a threat anywhere on the halfcourt, others being Batum and Kemba Walker.
For the first time in his career, Lamb played significant minutes as a point-forward. During some games when starting point guard Walker was on the bench, Lamb was the one who brought the ball up the court and began to facilitate the offense. This versatility from Lamb allowed the Hornets to create more off-ball plays for sharpshooters Walker and Monk. Speaking of positions, the Hornets have seemed figure out where Lamb should play in the rotation. Lambs true position had been unpredictable the past two seasons thanks to ex-Hornets Marco Belinelli and Lance Stephenson. He would play lengthy minutes at both shooting guard and small forward. But, in the 2017-2018 season, the Hornets finally decided this season that Lamb is a shooting guard. The shooting guard seems like a more natural fit to Lamb as he does not have the build to match up against other NBA small forwards. But, at 6’5”, Lamb does have the height advantages over a majority of the NBA’s shooting guards. This gives the Hornets a size advantage, an advantage that the team has very few of.
One aspect of Lamb’s game that no one seems to talk about is his out of bounds plays. Former head coach Steve Clifford drew up multiple and successful ways to get Lamb open during a side out. From a mid-range off of multiple screens, to the alley-oop layups and dunks, Lamb became the Hornets number one option off a timeout.
Looking back on the season, the Hornets should have used a play involving Lamb getting a shot towards crunch times after timeouts. In clutch time scenarios (situations where there are less than five minutes in either the fourth quarter or overtime and whose score is at or below a five-point margin), Batum averaged just 1.2 points and 0.5 assists. This is off of a bleak 32.3 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. This is not a small sample size, as the Hornets have tried time and time again to give the ball in Batum’s’ hands to close the game out when teammate Walker was having an off night. These numbers could be improved upon if the team instead placed Lamb in these clutch scenarios in the 2017-2018 season. This would allow Lamb to shine where he the best at, during out of bounds plays. If the Hornets allowed for more opportunities for Lamb in clutch time this year, it may have resulted in more wins for the Hornets, and a possible playoff appearance.
In total, Jeremy Lamb had a solid season. He has been the only one besides Kemba to have constant scoring numbers. Even off the bench, Lamb was able to shine and contribute to the team in a positive way.