Indiana Pacers: Overplaying Jeremy Lamb doesn’t make sense

Indiana Pacers, Jeremy Lamb - Credit: Carmen Mandato/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Jeremy Lamb - Credit: Carmen Mandato/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /

While not a lot of people expected the Indiana Pacers to be roaring out of the gates to commence the 2021-22 NBA season due to their injured squad and tough early schedule, the team seemed poised to begin their campaign on a good note in their season opener.

Turns out, the Pacers’ third quarter struggles from previous years carried over to the present season. After leading by as much as 23, the Blue and Gold quickly faltered and ultimately came out of Charlotte with a dejecting loss. It’s one game, as they say, but one theme from their opening game surely raised a lot of eyebrows.

Given that starting wings Caris LeVert and TJ Warren are both nursing injuries, coach Rick Carlisle stuck with his veteran guns. Save for rookie Chris Duarte, who had a phenomenal debut performance, proven cogs Justin Holiday, Torrey Craig and Jeremy Lamb assumed all of the available minutes.

Even with injuries, Jeremy Lamb shouldn’t play this much for the Indiana Pacers

Duarte, Holiday and Craig are all serviceable to above-average defenders, so their uptick in minutes is certainly warranted. Jeremy Lamb, however, is far from a two-way wing. Alas, he even struggled mightily with his shooting, converting only one out of nine field goal attempts, the lone of which is a three-pointer, albeit from six total tries.

As one of the Indiana Pacers’ better shot creators, his shooting numbers will certainly improve back to normalcy, but Lamb showed signs of discomfort with the team’s offense. Primarily a mid-range operator, he seemed iffy on extending his range, with Rick Carlisle’s system effectively discouraging the long twos that he has so often shot (and sunk) in his career.

Beyond his mini struggles on offense, however, is the primary reason why he shouldn’t be logging significant minutes anymore: defense. Never been considered as a tenable defender, Lamb is exploitable on that end. He simply lacks the instincts and the physique to make an impact as a ball stopper. He did thrive to an extent as a team defender in his first season with the Pacers when he was a spot starter, but Indiana doesn’t nearly have the same cushion on defense as before that can mask his defensive struggles.

Look at this sequence from crunch time in their loss against Charlotte, where Lamb’s poor positioning and timing to rotate and close out basically allowed a free rim run from the Hornet’s Miles Bridges:

While Jeremy Lamb is far from third-stringer quality, the coaching staff’s trust on him may be overt given  his deficiencies, especially with him similarly readjusting after his own set of injuries last season.

I’m no basketball coach, but even though it’s still too early in the season to make drastic changes, coach Rick Carlisle may want to consider trimming his minutes at this juncture in favor of other players who can make a difference on defense, where the team has continuously struggled. Some serving of Oshae Brissett or Isaiah Jackson, anyone?

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