Walker BeekenJeremy Lamb
was one of the breakout stars of last year's NCAA tournament, emerging as a second scoring option next to Kemba Walker
, and playing an integral role in Connecticut's surprising run to a National Championship. His impressive play towards the end of his freshman season, as well as his time spent over the summer as Team USA's leading scorer in the U-19 World Championships, had Lamb as a hot name in NBA Draft circles entering his sophomore season.
His team also had high preseason expectations, but the Huskies struggled for the majority of the season, finishing 8-10 in Big East play and losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament last week to Iowa State. While Lamb did show progress in some areas as a sophomore and was the team's leading scorer, his team's disappointing season will likely be a concern to scouts, as Connecticut's team chemistry appeared to be very poor, and Lamb didn't do much to alleviate some of the questions we've outlined previously
regarding his questionable shot selection and passive demeanor on the court.
From a physical standpoint, Lamb has nice size for an NBA shooting prospect at 6-5, which he combines with a freakishly long wingspan, smooth athleticism and solid explosiveness. His thin, lanky frame still needs added strength, but he already appears to have made some strides in that area since last year, and he should continue to fill out more in time, as he's still only 19 years old.
After playing off the ball last season next to Walker and using over half of his possessions spotting up or in transition, Lamb took on a new role this season as the team's primary scorer and spent much more time with the ball in his hands.
However, with backcourt mates Ryan Boatright
and Shabazz Napier
also looking to take their turns creating off the dribble and taking plenty of ill-advised shots, Connecticut's offense looked very ugly at times, with Lamb often alternating between disappearing for stretches and taking bad shots trying to assert himself in the offense.
Despite these struggles, Lamb still showed why he's considered one of the most talented wing players in all of college basketball, showing more versatility as a scorer than he did as a freshman. He used over a quarter of his possessions this season in isolation sets or as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, and while he had mixed results, he also displayed his potential as a shot-creator.
He has a smooth first step and very good ball-handling skills, fluidly using change of speed and direction dribbles to keep his defender on his heels. At this stage, though, Lamb prefers to utilize his step-back jumper or use his dribble to create space for mid-range jump shots, often bailing out his defender, rather than attacking the rim. This is evidenced by how infrequently he gets to the free throw line, where he ranks 5th in attempts per-40 amongst the 21 shooting guards in our top 100 prospect rankings, as well as in the fact that 73% of his shots in the half-court come on jumpers.
With that said, Lamb was still a very efficient scorer inside the arc as a sophomore, able to use an array of floaters and smoothly pull up in mid-range, making things look easy at times. His 60% on 2-pointers this season was actually the highest of any shooting guard in our top 100.
As we've mentioned before, in addition to his talents off the dribble, Lamb is also an outstanding jump shooter. He has range well past the NBA 3-point line and can shoot the ball with his feet set, off the dribble, or running off screens. He's shown nice footwork coming off curls and does an excellent job creating space, squaring himself, and elevating to get off his jumper.
From behind the arc this season, he shot an unimpressive 34%, taking over six attempts per game, displaying poor shot selection at times and often settling for long, difficult jumpers. He clearly has the potential to be a more efficient deep shooter, but he'll need to do a better job of being more selective.
Another area Lamb can improve in is as a passer. He ranks 18th of the 21 shooting guard prospects in our top-100 rankings in assists generated on a per-possession basis.
Defensively, Lamb has the physical tools to excel, as he has good lateral quickness and instincts and is able to utilize his tremendous wingspan to cause havoc on the ball and in the passing lanes. His energy on this end looked very inconsistent this season, however, not displaying the competitiveness, fundamentals and attention to detail that will likely be demanded from him at the NBA level, particularly off the ball.
Overall, Lamb's sophomore season probably didn't have a big effect on his draft stock, as he's still considered a lottery-level talent thanks to his terrific physical attributes and scoring instincts. His team's lack of success, poor on-court chemistry and his often apathetic demeanor will likely be concerns that NBA teams will want to further investigate in the pre-draft process, but he's shown tremendous growth as a player after barely being a top 100 recruit out of high school.
Lamb has all of the tools to flourish at the next level as a shooting guard who can play off the ball and create his own offense, but teams will want to do their best to find out how likely they think he is to reach his potential and fit into a winning culture.