Film Session: Jeremy Lamb
Perhaps more than any other position in basketball, the shooting guard spot is defined by scoring. If you play the two, you better be able to put points on the board, period. Sure, rebounds, assists and defense are always appreciated, but a two guard’s publicly perceived value is far more often determined by his ability to space the floor, slash to the rim and move off the ball; in short, doing anything and everything that involves getting the rock in the basket.
And yet, look around the league right now and you’ll find a relative dearth of shooting guards who score prolifically. Only 11 (12, if you count Eric Gordon who played just nine games) two-guards averaged more than 15 points per game this past season, and a mere three (again, that number rises to four if Gordon is included) topped the 20 points per game plateau. So while the perception about the position still stands, the reality is that pure scorers at the two-spot are hard to come by.
Well Jeremy Lamb can score, plain and simple. What’s more, he can do so in a variety of ways. He averaged nearly 18 points per game during his sophomore season at the University of Connecticut; this, after announcing his arrival to the nation the year before with his big time shot-making during the Huskies’ run to the 2011 NCAA title; a six-game stretch that saw Lamb connect from downtown at a ridiculous rate of 63 percent.
So what are the skills that make Lamb such a promising two-guard prospect at the NBA level? We put the Rockets rookie under the microscope in our latest film session to find out.
The first thing that jumps out at you when watching film of Jeremy Lamb is his easy, controlled and smooth shooting stroke from distance. He’s always well balanced when setting up to shoot and is additionally aided by a quick release on his jumper. Combine those attributes with his 6-5 height and long arms (Lamb’s wingspan is 6-11) and you’ve got a player who’s very capable of getting his shot off cleanly from the perimeter pretty much anytime he wants, making him a nightmare for opposing defenders attempting to close out in time.
Something else you’ll notice from the final two clips of this sequence: Lamb’s savvy sense for setting himself up for wide-open three-point looks in transition and secondary transition opportunities. The Rockets place a significant amount of value on that aspect of the game -- with good reason, since such shots tend to take place before the defense is set, meaning a higher percentage of those attempts are uncontested -- and Lamb is the sort of player who will seek out those opportunities whenever his club is able to push the pace. He’ll take full advantage of them, too: according to Synergy Sports, Lamb ranked in the nation’s 81st percentile in both spot-ups and transition, scoring 1.13 and 1.28 points per possession respectively.
One of the most underrated and underappreciated skills a scorer can have is the ability to move without the ball in his hands. It is, however, critical to the success of any offense since it creates both spacing and passing lanes for the attacking team and confusion for the defense. Here, Lamb takes full advantage of a ball-watching defense, darting in from the wing and receiving a well-timed bounce pass before finishing with a nifty reverse layup.
That sort of off-ball movement is a strong indicator of effort and offensive awareness, and it speaks volumes about the rookie’s ability in each area that he ranked among the nation’s best in scoring off of cuts, averaging 1.43 points per possession, good enough to put him in the 91st percentile in that category according to Synergy Sports.
There must be something special about the UConn basketball program when it comes to teaching the subtle art of moving without the ball and shooting off screens. From Ray Allen to Rip Hamilton to Ben Gordon, the Huskies have over the course of the last two decades churned out more than their fair share of two guards who know how to use a well-placed pick to their advantage. And now, it would appear Jeremy Lamb is poised to follow in their prestigious footsteps.
Lamb shot nearly 49 percent off screens last season, averaging 1.112 points per possession, placing him in the nation’s 78th percentile according to Synergy. His success can be attributed to his rock-solid shooting fundamentals; the only chance any player has to consistently connect when stopping on a dime after curling around a pick at a dead sprint is if they make it a habit of squaring up to the basket, elevating straight up (drift to the side and you’re doomed) and employing a quick, consistent release point. Lamb shows how it’s done in this clip -- tremendous technique and balance throughout -- though it should be noted he’ll need to make a point of peeling off his screener at a much tighter angle in the pros; he won’t be able to lose many NBA caliber defenders with the loose line he takes in this sequence.
Sometimes a picture (or in this case, a highlight) says it all. Lamb is much more of a pure scorer than a one-man highlight factory, but this video alone proves he is plenty capable of producing the sort of plays that make fans and announcers go bananas.
This clip (along with the one that preceded it) shows that Lamb is more than a mere spot-up shooter who can space the floor. He’s quite capable of generating offense with the ball in his hands as well. Lamb was average in isolation situations this season but proved quite adept as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, ranking in the 64th percentile according to Synergy, scoring .824 points per possession.
Here, he splits the double-team with ease and finishes with a floater that has become a major part of his offensive arsenal. According to DraftExpress, Lamb shot a scintillating 61 percent on floaters last season, demonstrating the feathery touch he has at his disposal when getting into the lane and finishing around the basket.
This last sequence showcases a couple things the Rockets will want to see more of from Lamb as he develops and evolves as a player. Lamb is not a strong rebounder at present; in fact, his per minute rebounding numbers actually dipped from his freshman to sophomore seasons. And though he’ll likely never be elite attacking the glass, he should be able to put his impressive length and athleticism to good use (as he does in this clip) far more often in the future.
Perhaps of more immediate importance, however, will be encouraging Lamb to draw contact and get to the free throw line more often. In this instance, there is reason to believe the rookie will be able to do so in time. He nearly doubled his per minute rate of free throw attempts this past season, and the Rockets coaching staff will undoubtedly continue to impress upon him the importance of getting to the charity stripe where he is an excellent shooter. Lamb was on the receiving end of a significant amount of Kevin Martin comparisons in the days and weeks leading up to the draft; he’d be wise to watch film of the Rockets’ veteran to pick up some tips on incorporating that element of the game into his own.
It’s hardly a secret that one of the priorities for Lamb as it pertains to maximizing his pro potential will be adding muscle to his slight frame. He’ll need that strength on both ends of the floor; offensively it will help him absorb contact on his forays to the rim and also to thwart defenses who try to deny him the ball via physical play (similar to the ball denial techniques teams employ against Kevin Durant), while defensively added power will assist him in fighting through screens and from getting overwhelmed by players eager to back him down and punish him in the low post.
Speaking of life on the defensive end, Lamb possesses the potential to be a plus player in that area. His length gives him the ability to be both a ball hawk and a multi-positional defender, and his defensive metrics at Connecticut back this up; opponents shot less than 32 percent from the field against him in spot-up, isolation and off-screen situations -- a testament, no doubt, to his go-go-gadget arms that allow him to contest shots even when he’s not ideally positioned to do so.
Consistency will be key for Lamb going forward, as will learning how to become a player who creates offense for those other than himself (he averaged just 1.7 assists per game in ’11-’12). As strong a shooter as he is, Lamb hit just 34 percent of his three-pointers last season and though that’s hardly reason for concern given his silky smooth shooting stroke, attention to his aforementioned need to draw more free throws will help him immensely on those nights when his shot isn’t falling with regularity. So, too, will more aggression as a rebounder since easy buckets, free throws and transition opportunities are often the end result.