Jeremy Lamb has begun to evolve into not just Kemba Walker‘s safety valve in Charlotte’s offense that forces the defense to respect him but into a bona fide second or third option in Charlotte’s overall game plan.
His scoring on a counting-stat basis is at a career-high level, and he’s taking a lot more shots to tie or take the lead in the close games Charlotte always seems to lose, one reason that the Hornets, with their +0.2 point differential, nonetheless carry a losing 27-29 record into the All-Star break, the third year in a row they’re posting a positive net rating and a sub-.500 record.
But let’s examine that core premise about Lamb, the idea that since we’ve already established that Walker is part of the reason Charlotte can’t win close games (see this piece (http://paceandspacehoops.com/kemba-walker-is-one-of-the-worst-clutch-players-of-all-time/) about Walker in the clutch from earlier in the season for that argument), Lamb must therefore step into the role of game-winner in order for the Hornets to be able to salvage anything out of the talent they have without shipping Walker out in a fire-sale trade and rebuilding the franchise from the same starting point as they had when they were the 2012 Bobcats.
And while we’re on the subject, we’ll run through the rest of the rubric and see if Lamb can effectively pass a test we’d standardly apply to the likes of CJ McCollum, Danny Green, and Buddy Hield, the “can he be half of a great backcourt” test.
Got all that? Good.
The Counting Stats
Let’s drop a few numbers first.
Lamb is averaging 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks, turning it over 1.0 times per game, and doing all of the above in 28.8 minutes.
Which means that on a per-minute basis, his scoring is exactly in line (either 18.9 or 19.0 points) with what he’s done each of the past two years plus this one.
His rebounding is a lot better than 2018 but not as good as 2017, his passing is down (but with it comes fewer turnovers), and he’s playing a bit better defense. There’s not a lot there to say he’s definitively made a leap, but he is definitely making good use of his minutes, especially considering how many points Walker tends to score as the primary focal point of the Hornets’ attack.
More alarming is Lamb’s .494 eFG%; that’s the lowest it’s been since he was still in Oklahoma City back in 2014-15 as a 22-year-old, and his 33.3 percent shooting from long range is cringeworthy.
Bluntly, Lamb is regressing as a shooter, not something you want to see from a second scoring option where the primary scorer has those same problems with his shot.
This is one reason why Charlotte has been getting their butts kicked more often this year than they had in years past, which is why their differential is a lot closer to zero.
The Advanced Stats
As long as we’re comparing Lamb to Walker, feast your eyes on (or cover them for) Lamb’s clutch numbers.
Less than five minutes left (or in OT), and Lamb over the past two seasons is 5-of-21 (23.8 percent), 0-of-7 for three, and even worse an option when Walker passes him the ball as when Kemba just keeps it and shoots it himself.
Steve Clifford couldn’t get clutch shooting out of his backcourt, and it seems as though James Borrego isn’t having any better luck getting guys who simply can’t shoot with the game on the line to make shots with the game on the line.
Moving past that, let’s look at the Big 5 advanced stats, and…
Well, a 16.4 PER, .543 True Shooting, .108 WS/48, -0.6 BPM powered mainly by shoddy defense, and a 0.5 VORP?
I mean, that’s not great, but nobody’s going to call for a G-Leaguer to step into his slot either.
Most of Lamb’s problems becoming a bigger part of a modern NBA breakfast have to do with that three-point shooting. There’s not a place in the league for a career 33.6 percent three-point shooter who’s regressed to that poor career average unless he does a ton of other things with and without the ball.
And Lamb doesn’t do those things. He’s a guy who, if you put him in Milwaukee, couldn’t keep a starting shot because he couldn’t shoot enough.
Put him in Indiana and he’s better than Tyreke Evans, but that’s not saying much. Put him in Sacramento and he’s backing up Hield.
You start to see where this is going. He’s a natural sixth or seventh man who starts because his team doesn’t have anything better and has to shoulder a scoring load that’s beyond his natural abilities.
Which leads us to…
Is Jeremy Lamb good? Especially when you consider what Charlotte needs him to be in order for the Hornets, in the context of their roster and their offense, to consider him “good”?
The answer, sadly, is no. He’s a bench player promoted beyond his competence. This one’s Busted.
NEXT WEEK! Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.