NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Jeremy Lamb #3 of the Connecticut Huskies puts up a shot against Deniz Kilicli #13 and Darryl Bryant #25 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during their second round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
As Dallas looks toward the June draft, UConn SG Jeremy Lamb should be the player at the top of their wish list. Here's why.
After a breakout performance during the NCAA tournament as a freshman on UConn's 2011 national championship, Jeremy Lamb entered this past season with great expectations.
With Kemba Walker gone, he took a more prominent role as a sophomore. During his second year in Storrs, Lamb showed a more extensive arsenal on offense despite struggling at times to get consistent touches with Shabazz Napier running point.
While he should be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft, several mock drafts have had him available at No. 17, which would be a huge steal for the Dallas Mavericks.
Much of the criticism directed at Lamb allude to what is largely an imagined lack of assertiveness. Scouts consistently point to what they perceive as laid back or passive body language as evidence, but much of that criticism can be disregarded immediately when looking at the tape. Lamb works hard to get open off screens and shows a high awareness of how to attack the defense; he's not checked out on the floor.
The thing that immediately sets him apart from the players he shared the court with at the college level is the ease and smoothness with which he plays. He is a smooth athlete, and that permeates every aspect of his game -- his handle, his shot and his offensive game.
Though he will occasionally over dribble after catching off a screen, he demonstrates good control of the ball when it's in his hands. In addition to his handle, Lamb's hand eye coordination allows him to be a creative finisher when he gets into the pain.
He's not a particularly explosive athlete, but Lamb uses his 6'5" frame and incredibly long arms to consistently finish in traffic, as evidenced by his 60.1% 2-pt field goal percentage from the 2-guard spot. Even when he appears stuck in the air, he shows an ability to find an angle to get the ball up and in off the glass.
His jump-shot is another tremendous asset. He has a quick, smooth release and shows the footwork to get set and release in a hurry. He will occasionally drift when catching and shooting off screens, but his form is consistent and he has range past the NBA three point line. While his range goes out to 25 feet, he is also an efficient mid-range jump shooter and shows soft touch on a floater he uses effectively.
While he is a gifted scorer, Lamb is not a great passer, and that is probably his greatest weakness on the offensive end. Once the ball is in his hands, he is an attacking player. When he gets into the painted area, he's thinking basket, not facilitate. He's not a selfish player and he picks his spots well, but he's simply not a drive and dish guy.
On defense, Lamb is not yet an elite defender, but he shows good lateral quickness to go along with his impressive wingspan. He may not have made it happen on the defensive end yet, but he has all the tools to be a good defender.
All in all, with his combination of physical attributes, skills and potential, Lamb is easily the top 2-guard available in this draft. His game is well rounded, but shows more room for growth. And given his willingness to work of the ball and having dealt with high volume shooting back-court mates for the past two years, Lamb should be able to find a niche as a secondary player before transitioning into a leading role.
He would be an ideal fit for the Mavericks with his outside shooting, ability to get to the hole and finish. While the offense wouldn't revolve around him, Lamb has the repertoire of skills to contribute in a variety of ways as he grows into his potential at the NBA level.
The problem for the Mavericks is that there is almost no way the former fringe top-100 college recruit is still around at 17. As the draft process goes on, Lamb could easily shoot into the top 10 once teams have a real chance to evaluate his game tape and get away from the chatter about his calm on-court manner.