Jeremy Lamb will Continue to Raise the Indiana Pacers Ceiling

Jeremy Lamb, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Jeremy Lamb, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Although he has struggled in recent weeks, Jeremy Lamb gives the Indiana Pacers a lot of options moving forward. He may also hold the key to reaching their highest ceiling.

The Indiana Pacers have built their 21-12 record through balance. They get contributions in scoring and defending from every player that touches the floor each night. This is shown by the six players averaging more than 10 points per game (plus a seventh averaging 9.8) coupled with a top-10 defense.

The Pacers lack the luxury man top teams hold: a singular player able to take over a game on any given night. They have three total 30-point performances on the season, two by Malcolm Brogdon and one by T.J. Warren. Many hope for this to change once Victor Oladipo returns from injury, but there is no telling how long it will take for him to work off the rust.

This makes the performance of Jeremy Lamb all the more valuable moving forward.

Lamb was seen as a very good add for the Pacers over the summer and currently holds down Oladipo’s starting spot. Although injuries forced him to miss nine of the first 14 games, the former Charlotte Hornet turned in strong performances each time he was healthy enough to grace the floor.

His first 15 starts saw him average 15.7 points on 47.2 percent from the field while scoring in double figures every outing. He gave the Pacers a third player on the wing that could score off the dribble and get their own shot when the offense broke down. Much like Warren, he showed he could be a tough shot-maker.

Unfortunately, the numbers have taken a significant dip over the last few weeks. Since the match-up with the Boston Celtics on December 11, he’s missed two more games due to injury and has appeared to have lost his groove. In the seven games he did play, Lamb averaged 9.3 points on 37.1 percent from the field and a ghastly 25 percent from 3-point range. He also failed to score double-figures four times.

The struggles could be attributed to the injuries, but could also be other teams making adjustments. This is only the second season Lamb has been given the reins as a full-time starter. He started 55 of the 79 games he played in last season for the Hornets, but had just 31 total starts in the six seasons prior.

Some of his success as a starter last season could be attributed to the All-Star he played next to. A large portion of his minutes came along side Kemba Walker. Players like Walker, create their own gravity and allow for more open looks for teammates. Indiana does not have anyone as talented offensively as Walker, and this allows teams to more easily game plan for secondary scorers like Lamb.

That being said, the news is not all bad. Last season, Lamb shot better after the All-Star break than before. This indicates that even as teams began to have more opportunity to plan for what Lamb was bringing to the floor each night, he was getting more comfortable getting to his spots and converting.

Repeating that same uptick in efficiency this season would be perfect for the Pacers timeline. It would coincide with Oladipo working into the line-up and Lamb’s first real playoff push (he played on a few OKC Thunder teams that made the playoffs but managed only 112 minutes across 14 playoff games).

Oladipo’s return could also help Lamb the latter half of the season. It would likely result in the UConn product moving to the bench. A role he has operated in for much of his career. He would then get many of his looks against lesser defenders, while likely still getting the nod in small-ball line-ups.

Few, if any, teams have a fourth option in their starting line-up with the capacity of Jeremy Lamb. He’s able to hit big shots. He’s worked on his defense. He does what the team needs in order to come out with a win.

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Things will only get easier when he’s going against Furkan Korkmaz and Terrance Ross instead of Jaylen Brown and Kyle Lowry. By then, the Indiana Pacers could be the home of eight double-digit scorers instead of six. That could be just right for pushing them over the top.