The Shooting Guard
Doron Lamb came in like a lion. He made easy work of East Tennessee State. Fresh out of high school, he found 20 points, made 3-5 three-pointers, and added three assists. In his first game at Kentucky, you could see that the transition from high school to college was not so much a protracted growth as it was a natural evolution. You could see he was not going to be hanging around Lexington for long.
Toward the end of his sophomore season, Lamb was no longer making easy work of East Tennessee State. Still the same, he found 22 points, made 3-6 three-pointers, and added three assists. In his last game with Kentucky, he also found a championship against Kansas in New Orleans. You could see that he stood on the threshold of a transition from college to the pros. You could no longer see him hanging around Lexington.
But the Bucks saw Lamb.
The team did not work out Lamb in the pre-draft workouts in Milwaukee. But they saw him plenty on game film and up close at games. That includes Billy McKinney, the Director of Scouting for the Bucks.
“We have seen these players play so many times. So if we cannot work out a player, one of the reasons is because they don’t think they will fall to the position that we are going to be drafting in. And we had a chance to interview Doron in Chicago though he didn’t come in for a workout to our facility prior to the draft. But I can say probably each of us saw Kentucky four times this year.”
So, what did the team see in Lamb? Your first guess is a good guess.
Lamb is a shooting guard. Okay. A real shooting guard. At 6’4” and 210 pounds, he possesses the frame for the position. But the shooting part is what really drew McKinney and the Bucks to Lamb.
“We needed some shooting. Again, he was a player that we didn’t think would be on the board at 42. On a lot of the draft boards, including ours, we had him penciled in as a late first-round pick between 24—30. But he was available at 42. We had considered selling the pick, trading the pick for a future pick, or selling it for cash. When he became available, we thought everybody really liked his game and how he has progressed over the years, and thought he would be a really good fit for us. Especially with the backcourt that we have with Monta, Brandon, and Beno.”
Lamb’s shooting will help space the floor for a team that had no trouble scoring last season but which ranked just 16th in three-point percentage, at 34.5 %.
And the Bucks ranked 16th in three-point accuracy despite calling the second best three-point shooter in the NBA one of their own. Ersan Ilyasova ranked second in the NBA behind only Steve Novak in three-point accuracy, as the Turkish forward made a career-best 45.5 % from beyond the arc. Mike Dunleavy also ranked among the league leaders from deep, connecting on 39.9 %.
But the guards lagged behind a bit. Jennings is the best of group from deep – he made a very respectable 37.4 % on three-pointers as a rookie but dropped to 32.3 % and 33.2 % over the last two seasons respectively. Meanwhile, Ellis dipped to 26.7 % in 21 games with the Bucks, though to his credit he attempted just half as many three-pointers per game (2.1) as he attempted in Golden State last season (4.2). And Udrih prefers the long two, but made just 28.8 % of three-pointers last season, the lowest conversion rate of his career.
Lamb is not guaranteed to better any of those marks as a rookie. Plenty of college players have moved on to the NBA and failed to replicate shooting success from college days.
The NCAA moved back the three-point line one foot at the start of the 2008 season to 20 feet and nine inches from the basket. That is still a full three feet shy of the 23 feet and nine inches of the NBA three-point line. So there is an adjustment. But Lamb is well-suited to make that adjustment – consider that Draft Express has called his form “flawless.”
As a freshman, Lamb shot a fiery 48.6 % on three-pointers in 38 games. As a sophomore, he shot 46.6 % on three-pointers in 40 games. That comprises 78 games worth of red-hot shooting, a worthy sample size. And while his greatest influence did stem from the long-range shots, Lamb actually shot a higher percentage on two-pointers than three-pointers during each of his two seasons at Kentucky.
Plainly, Lamb is primed to play offense in the NBA. But Scott Skiles is on the sidelines, so to actually play at all, he will need to play defense as well.
Kentucky was known better for its defense than for its offense – they allowed more than 74 points once last season, and won that game. When I asked McKinney what he likes about Lamb in addition to his ability to shoot, he did not hesitate.
“I believe he will be a very good defensive player. At some point, he can play with any of our players in the backcourt. He understands his role and how to win. He was a player on that ballclub who probably didn’t get as much attention as the other players, but the role he played with that team was incredibly important.”
Just a few weeks before the draft, General Manager John Hammond spoke about a player that got away.
"We would love to have a piece like Jodie Meeks. And I've said this to Jodie personally. You learn a lesson and you don't move people like Jodie Meeks.”
After the draft, I asked McKinney if he ever makes player comparisons, and whether he had any comparables for Lamb.
“It is hard not to. Doron is a very good shooter. We had a player similar on our team that we drafted in 2009 – Jodie Meeks, from Kentucky, who is now starting at shooting guard for the 76ers.”
Meeks shot 36.2 % from the field and 28.0 % on three-pointers in part of one season in Milwaukee before being traded along with Francisco Elson for Primo Brezec, Royal Ivey, and a second-round draft pick. After going to Philadelphia, Meeks improved greatly on those numbers, and he now carries career shooting numbers of 41.1 % from the field and 37.1 % on three-pointers.
But if players were just recycled versions of their predecessors, the game would not be so interesting, we would not keep watching each night. The allure of every draft, every new season, and every player is that none of them are ever predictable, or the same.
McKinney warned against reading too much into comparisons around draft time.
“As much as you can make comparisons with players, you have to understand these guys are their own players in their own right.”
So while parts of his game might resemble this player or that one from years past, Lamb will come in to the Bucks only exactly like Lamb – and maybe like a lion.
My passions? Writing and the Bucks, to start. So it is good to be here. I have reported on media row for just about every Bucks home game since 2009-10 – almost all of that time writing for BrewHoop. I have also written for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, SB Nation, ESPN Milwaukee, Slam Online, etc. You can follow me on Twitter @alexboeder or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.