Jeremy Lamb: Silence of the Critics
Remember Jeremy Lamb, the guard from UConn? No, not the one you saw this year that underachieved, the one that was an intergral his squad to the NCAA Championship alongside Kemba Walker. He had as an impressive a tournament during UConn’s title run as any freshman in college basketball that year. People were surprised that he’d even bother coming back to school this past season despite being perceived as a lock to be picked in the lottery. Not only that, many have suggested he made a mistake, and that’s simply not the case.
He came back to a roster with the potential to make the 2010-2011 Huskies look like an overmatched JV squad. Lamb was expected to come back and have a breakout year. Add to that 6-11, 270 pound high school phenom Andre Drummond and highly touted prospect DeAndre Daniels and UConn looked poised to repeat. The two freshmen were expected to help Lamb lead the Huskies but combined to average 13 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest, not exactly the production Coach Calhoun expected.
That is why it was good for Lamb to come back to school another year. Yes, he struggled to live up to expectations and it was proved that he is not a natural leader. But despite that, he faced adversity and despite being the focal point of every team’s scouting report, put up similar numbers to his freshman campaign and even had a better season in terms of his player efficiency rating. One of the knocks on him this past season was that he lacked intensity and his effort waned at times. He averaged over 37 minutes of playing time a night on a team that expected him to do the majority of the heavy lifting. That would take a toll on anybody and goes a long way towards explaining away the notion that he lacks the will and desire to play hard. The more alarming thing for me is the fact that he doubled his three point shot attempts this season. Drummond’s presence down low drew opposing defenses in, producing open looks on the perimeter, but Lamb only shot about 33% from long range, many of which were contested shots off the dribble.
As if the roster underachieving as a whole wasn’t enough for the Huskies to deal with, Coach Jim Calhoun missed a chunk of the season while suffering from a spinal condition. He came back from a month of being sidelined to coach the team a mere week removed from back surgery. Over that month, the young team struggled and looked lost at times, including Lamb. A directionless team with young guys that looked out of sorts at the college level, and a junior in Alex Oriakhi who was too busy being upset about his reduced role on the team to help Lamb carry the load led to the down season. UCONN became three guards, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and Lamb trying to carry the team.
The bad season culminated in a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Iowa State. Soon after, UCONN faced major roster upheaval, including the talented Lamb, who declared for the NBA draft in part to avoid the Huskies post-season ban next season. Despite the down year, Lamb averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest and has the athletic ability to be a difference maker on the next level. He has excellent length and despite his thin frame, can hold his own on the defensive end.
The 2012 draft in thin in the backcourt, meaning even after a disappointing (relative to expectations) season, Lamb could easily find himself among the first 5-10 picks. He has top five talent in this draft pool. And despite being below Bradley Beal on many team's lists at the moment, some head to head match ups in workouts could change things. If Lamb falls to the mid-lottery range, he will likely end up being an absolute steak, and a team is going to be very happy to get a player of his caliber.
After facing adversity in UConn, I think it will be an easier transition for Lamb to play for a lottery team than it would have been last year after getting to a national title game and then be expected to lead a rebuilding team at the next level. After this year, NBA teams won’t expect Lamb to be a vocal leader on the team, because they understand that it just isn’t him. With this, it will give the team that drafts him more realistic expectations of what to expect, which will do nothing but help him.
Lamb can help a team in a number of ways but isn’t going to overwhelm you with any one facet of his game. He’s the type who won’t be a leader on your team, but will be a guy who will produce and could be a quality seondary option for a team.
Yes, if you watched Lamb this season, you probably came away disappointed after seeing what could easily be perceived as a step back after helping lead the team to the title in 2011. However, truth is he made the right decision as he didn’t see his draft stock take a hit the same way a guy like Jared Sullinger did, and it allowed him to prepare himself for the next level both mentally and physically as he got stronger this year. He’s still thin, but remains one of the top guards in the class. He’ll be able to come into the association with much more realistic expectations. So, remember the Jeremy Lamb you saw in 2011? If not, you can expect to get reminded of just how good he was because he will be back, not in Storrs, but silencing the critics and devouring the NBA with fava beans and Chianti in the future.
"He came back to a roster with the potential to make the 2010-2011 Huskies look like an overmatched JV squad. "
Idk about that. UCONN brought back not just Lamb but three other key contributors for the '11 title team (Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith), and they brought in the #1 overall prospect in Drummond, another 5-star in DeAndre Daniels and a high 4-star, Ryan Boatright.
UCONN's issues in 2011 were not due to talent. Calhoun was held out of a few games and when he coached, he wasn't remotely in top form, let's just leave it at that. Starting Drummond and giving him minutes that rightfully belonged to Oriakhi was inane. After anchoring the defense of a championship team, Oriakhi's minutes were cut from 29 to 24 when they probably should have been raised to 32. Drummond blocked a couple shots a game but anyone that watched the Huskies this year will tell you that he was only an average all-around defensive player, often out of position and, though it's a worn statement right now, sort of unfocused. They were also very selfish, with the guards having far too much freedom, which brings me to...
I don't think Jeremy Lamb will be as good as this site projects. They have always had him higher than most, as high as #2. Currently he's at #7 here; DX has him #12 and ESPN has him #13, which I think is more accurate. This site has always overrated him. I like Lamb, but to me he projects as, best case, a Kevin Martin/Danny Granger, a long wing with great range who is a volume scorer and can only win with a mature group of versatile veterans around him. Edge of the top 10 seems about right. I prefer him to Rivers because of his defined position and defensive potential due to his length, but he's still not can't-miss, as this site continually tells us he is.
I disagree on Drummon. He was the second best post defender, behind some guy named Anthony Davis.
Oriahki's problem wasn't Drummond. He played awful and was in foul trouble basically every game. And we know Calhoun doesn't play guys after they get 2 first half fouls (see: Okafor, Emeka, 2004 National Semi-Final). Oriahki had a bad year, and pouted instead of raise his game like he did in the tourney.
Also, every player regressed. Napier, Roscoe, Giffey (from crap to uber crap), only Olander seemed to improve at all, and frankly he shouldn't be playing at Uconn to begin with (and his dad was my HS baseball caoch and I knew the kid when he was like 9 years old!). He belongs at a URI type school. I've never seen a team so young have everone regress.
The reality is the best player on the team next year is Boatright, by far. But this team lacked an identiy, never tried to pass the ball to Drummon on a post up (inexcusable) and literally would wasted 30 seconds dribble and passing btw Napir and Boatright before jacking up a terrible shot and getting beat in transition.
Lamb is going to be a rip hamilton type guy as he will struggle to create his own shot at the next level. But his legnth will make him a good defender as a two way player.