Why is Jeremy Lamb Such Baad News?

On bad days, Jeremy has to blow on his fingers to keep them warm. - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In the Thunder's last two blowouts, Jeremy Lamb's production has disappeared. We set to find out why.

So, Jeremy Lamb has been nothing short of a total liability over the past few games. In blowout losses to Utah and Denver, he shot a combined 5 of 26, or 19% from the field. His performance has been pretty indicative of the team as a whole. Everyone except Durant is struggling to shoot an efficient percentage at a high volume, and the ball isn't moving nearly as much as it should be. This isn't a trend that I expect to continue, but these past few games definitely represent Jeremy Lamb at his worst.

We've studied Jeremy Lamb's best in the past here at WTLC, so it only makes sense that we would study him at the opposite end. With that in mind, I took a look at all of his shot attempts over the course of the two games.  Excluding a couple of garbage time buckets that my DVR accidentally didn't record, I grouped all of his shots into specific categories that will give us a better idea of what he's struggling to do. I also included the few makes that he did have, so we can see what few plays do work for him when he's at his worst.

Without further ado, here's what I was able to find.

Forcing The Pick and Roll

  • The first two shots he takes are totally needless and far too difficult. The problem isn't that he doesn't have the talent to make that type of shot, as the first one nearly rimmed in. The problem is that he took the shot way too early, faced two defenders in the paint, is not at all likely to get a foul, and ignored a wide open Fisher on the second play.
  • The third play was a bit overthrown and a bit fumbled, but Jeremy Lamb tried way too hard to force it up. Had he simply gathered the ball and done something like swung it over to Fisher, the team would have had a far better shot at scoring.

Forcing The Two Man Game Jumper

  • What I don't like about what I'm seeing here is just how predictable these plays are. The two players on the other side of the floor are never moving at all, so their defenders have little incentive to look away from Lamb.
  • These plays are very basic versions of HORNS sets. I don't understand why Derek Fisher is running this offense. Fisher is no threat to score against his opponent, and really only serves to hand the ball to Lamb and back away. HORNS works much better with a guard like Jackson or Westbrook at the helm, because they can dominate the strong die of the ball and threaten to take a high screen and score. On top of that, Lamb's two man game is better suited to the weak side as a pin down screen, which we've covered before. So, if the Thunder are going to continue with Fisher as point guard, they need to start things off with a bit of misdirection or simple ball movement. As it stands, the play puts Harden-like pressure on Lamb to score, but he's not yet at that level.
  • During shots #1 and #3, Lamb's shoulders and feet aren't square to the basket. Both shots are taken while he's doing some degree of spinning and lateral movement. Neither of those will contribute to high percentage shots.
  • During shot #2, Lamb takes a unnecessary dribble that forces his body out of rhythm. It's arguable that he could have made that shot on a good day, but he would have been better served by simply catching and shooting.

Spotting up for Contested Threes

  • This section is probably the most disheartening of them all. The only attempts that were even remotely justified were when he was trying to force the two-for-one and when he was trying to beat the buzzer. Still, he's only going to make about 10-20% of this type of shot.
  • Lamb is the team's "emergency button". He's relied upon to take the shot when the team's offense gets to a standstill, simply because he's considered to be our bench's most talented player. The problem with this is that he has very little skill as an isolation player, so he's going to take a bad three almost every time.

Missing Wide Open Shots

  • Not much to say here, other than stating that some players just have bad days. All three of these attempts would normally go in for Lamb. And even if he didn't have enough time to take an open shot, it wouldn't take much effort for him to fake his defender out from that position.

Those That He Actually Made

  • The only play that didn't come as part of the flow of the offense was the first one, and that was an extremely difficult shot. Basically, Jeremy Lamb isn't very much of a shot creator, and works best when given opportunities by other players.
  • Lamb is also a good player when things get a bit scrambly, because he can hit a shot from anywhere on the floor and is long enough to score easily in the post.

Conclusions

  • Lamb still has a bit of maturing to do. Not everything that happened above is necessarily his fault, but some of the shots he was taking were egregiously bad. A lot of what he has to improve upon are the little things, like setting his feet, recognizing when he has the ball in rhythm and when he doesn't, recognizing how far away his defender is, squaring his shoulders to the basket, and getting more clever about drawing fouls. All of this comes with time, so I'm not too worried at this juncture.
  • In general, these problems are moreso indicative of problems with the Thunder's offense than they are indicative of problems with Lamb himself. The one thing I'll say about the vast majority of these plays is that most of them featured very little ball movement. A lot of players stood rooted to the spot, and the Thunder's plays were simplistic and predictable. This might work when Durant and Westbrook are in Beast Mode, but it doesn't work when you need to get good shots to less talented players.
  • Lamb's role needs a re-think. We know that he's not much of an isolation threat, but why not draw up plays that give him a lot of space to work? His primary asset is his length, so he should be using that to reach around defenders and score on high screens, rather than spotting up for bad threes. I know that we saw a couple of pick and rolls above, but they were too obvious. If that play came a bit later in the offense or he managed to grab a more reliable screen, he would have a much better shot of scoring on the drive.
  • At the end of the day, Lamb is a floor spacer and a weak-side player. I don't know how good he's going to be in the future, but if we're just talking about this season, Lamb is going to function best when he's able to sneak past the defense or knock down open shots. Thus, expecting him to take more than 8-10 attempts per game is asking for disaster. At that point, he has to create his own shot, and the results likely won't be pretty.
  • The Thunder desperately need a scoring point guard. This is because Derek Fisher's offense is stale, predictable, and only works against the Celtics. Making matters worse is the fact that the Thunder's bench doesn't have a consistent shot creator. Thus, when the very basic HORNS sets fail to work, the team doesn't have much of a fallback option. This could be solved by putting somebody who's a threat to score in Fisher's position, which would open up a new world of offense. If you don't believe me, check out this basic instructional video on the HORNS set given by Coach Nick. You'll soon realize that Derek Fisher is doing almost nothing described of the point guard during most plays, and that the Thunder are simply using the formation to set up a basic two-man game. At the end of the day, it's not like point guards are hard to find. I mean, Reggie Williams is averaging 21 Points Per Game for the 66ers!
What do you think about Jeremy Lamb's performance? What would you change about his role, if anything? Let us know in the comments!
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