Jeremy Lamb next up to fill James Harden role

iSportsWebFor his rookie season, Jeremy Lamb bounced back and forth between the NBA and the D-League. On Oklahoma City's talented roster, there was not much space for the talented combo wing player from Connecticut.

Lamb had shown in college that he could be a good scorer and a great creator of shots for others. Doing it at the NBA level, in pressure situations no less, was the question when the Thunder grabbed his rookie rights in the Kevin Martin-James Harden trade.

It all ties into that though. Buried behind Martin, Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha, Lamb had the time to grow and develop. The Thunder's scouting and young player development will get tested once again though. Martin is gone, signing with the Timberwolves. The James Harden-Sixth Man role is open once again.

And it appears it is Jeremy Lamb's to fill.

This is perhaps the biggest question for the Thunder remaining after the James Harden trade and the trip to the 2012 NBA Finals. There was a big gap in terms of playmaking and scoring when the Thunder traded Harden. Harden was such a strong penetrator and creator that he could effectively split the point guard duties with Russell Westbrook and take pressure off of him as he learned the finer points of the position. It also gave the Thunder a dynamic player off the bench to keep the pressure on defenses.

Martin was decent last season for Oklahoma City, but was no James Harden. Lamb will have to be better than decent — Martin averaged 14.0 points per game, 45.0 percent field goal shooting and 42.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc — if the Thunder are to climb back to the top of the Western Conference and break through to win the NBA title.

Westbrook and Durant will certainly pick up some of the slack left by Harden as they did last year. And Reggie Jackson too showed a lot of potential coming off the bench as Westbrook's backup point guard. Lamb will not be alone.

But Lamb appears to be the man this role will fall on. Good luck to the sophomore player.

"[Jeremy Lamb] has a big offensive package," Thunder assistant coach Rex Kalamian said during Summer League. "It's not just shooting with Jeremy. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor, he has the ability to find people off the pass. He's a catch-and-shoot guy. He can find runners int he paint. He has a lot of different offensive ability and skill. I think we saw a lot of different ways tonight he can score the basketball."

In Summer League, Lamb became a revelation. He and Reggie Jackson joined forces to lead the Thunder to the championship in Orlando and put on a scoring assault. Lamb scored 18.8 points per game in four games, shooting 39.1 percent from the floor. Lamb could certainly use to be a bit more efficient but he was also given the ball as the primary option on the Summer League team's office.

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Lamb will be scaled back a bit. But his performance this summer for the Thunder certainly bodes well and builds confidence.

"Being able to work all summer and then demonstrate it in a game situation is huge," Jeremy Lamb said. "The coaches are out here watching us and evaluating us. That's big for me right now and big for a lot of other guys on the team. I think, for me, it's definitely a confidence builder."

Among Lamb's accomplishments during Summer League was a game-winning jumper against the Magic on the second day of play. There was also a 32-point effort on 10-for-14 shooting against Philadelphia. Lamb was simply dominating and clearly the best player on the floor when he stepped onto the Amway Center floor.

Doing it against Summer League competition and doing it night in and night out in the regular season and then again in the Playoffs are completely different matters.

The season will be the proving ground for this young player.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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