COMMENTARY | It is early July and the heat has set in on the plains of Oklahoma, Kevin Martin has opted to head north to the cooler weather of Minnesota. According to Yahoo! Sports with him goes 27.7 minutes and 14.0 minutes a game, along with a career best .426 average from behind the arc last season. Replacing this production is a key concern for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
While the large market teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks will improve their respective rosters by free agent acquisitions the Thunder do not have this luxury. For Oklahoma City to be successful it will require getting better from within. Enter Jeremy Lamb.
I will make a bold prediction right now. If the Thunder want to find themselves competing in another NBA Finals, Jeremy Lamb will have to mature, and quickly I might add. With the Martin departure the Thunder will turn to third-year man swing-man Reggie Jackson to be the sixth man off the bench. While Jackson performed admirably in the 2013 postseason in the absence of Russell Westbrook, it is foolish to think he can fill the K-Mart void on his own.
This is where Lamb can step in. Reggie Jackson will be good for around 25 minutes and at most 11.0 points per night. I would consider a successful year for Lamb to be one where he plays around 20 minutes a game and gives the Thunder around 7-8.0 points off the bench.
In the NBA Developmental League last season Lamb went off on his lesser opponents averaging over 20.0 points per game and almost 6.0 rebound for the Tulsa 66ers according to the team website. His production in the D-League is one of the main reasons that the Thunder have faith in Lamb’s ability to help them next season.
The 2013-14 season comes down to a couple things for Jeremy Lamb. Scoring and making three point shots. At .223 from behind the arc Jackson is far from a 3-point threat. Replacing the 0.426 percentage from Martin will be impossible, but here is what Lamb can do. At the University of Connecticut he had a modest .348 average, in the NBDL he improved slightly to .352. With guys like Westbrook and Durant on the court, Lamb should get plenty of open looks. If Lamb can continue to improve and shoot over .355 the Thunder may be in business.
Other statistics from Martin should be negligible. K-Mart was an average-below average rebounder and assist guy for the Thunder, replicating those numbers can most likely be absorbed by Jackson. Also on the defensive end Martin will not be missed. According to Yahoo! Sports with Martin on the floor the Thunder allowed 105.2 points per 100 possessions compared to 100.9 when he was on the bench. It is safe to say defense is not Kevin Martin’s strength.
The sad truth for Thunder fans is that as time goes on it becomes tougher to find good role players with the 3 huge contracts of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. The Thunder will tell you that the best thing about Jeremy Lamb is that his salary next season is $2.11 million compared to the around $7 million that Martin will be taking home. For a small market team its draft picks such as Lamb, Perry Jones III and rookie-to-be Steven Adams that can make or break the team.
Having actually watched the Jeremy Lamb in Tulsa last year I can tell you that as an Oklahoman myself I have no doubt in what the kid can do. He is a scorer above all things else. I wouldn’t count on Lamb to be defensive player of the year at any point during his career but if scoring is what you need, and the Thunder could use as much as they can get, Lamb just might be their guy.
T.S. Vann is a long time Oklahoma City resident who has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder since their move from Seattle. He has written for numerous sites online and continues to provide in-depth coverage on the NBA.