With Myles Turner, 23, set to enter his fifth season as the team’s only returning playoff starter from 2018-19, as well as the longest tenured player on the roster, the Pacers are about to look a whole lot different than they did just a few short months ago when they got swept at the hands of the Boston Celtics, especially until Victor Oladipo returns. In fact, according to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, Indiana is one of only five teams in the league bringing back less than 45 percent of last season’s minutes. As such, in an effort to get a better handle on the team’s quietly dramatic offseason, we’re bringing back our annual offseason Q&A series to delve deeper into what each of the newest Pacers brings to the table.
Ahead of free agency, it seemed doubtful that the Hornets would be able to max out Kemba Walker and re-sign Lamb while dodging the luxury tax, but once it was clear that the front office wasn’t going to extend Walker the supermax offer he was eligible for, were you at all surprised that Lamb also wouldn’t be returning, especially at a three-year, $31 million price point?
After Walker left, it didn’t make a lot of sense to bring Lamb back. The Hornets are going to be very bad this season regardless of Lamb’s presence on the roster. On top of that, Lamb’s roughly $10 million per year contract would have put the Hornets right up against the luxury tax this season. I don’t think there’s any way to justify flirting with the luxury tax while winning 20 games.
Lamb averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, free throw rate, and made 3-pointers as Charlotte’s second-leading scorer, what area of his game stood out the most in terms of improvement?
Probably his consistency with a larger role. This was the first season in which he was a regular starter, and it didn’t hinder his play at all. He’d always been an effective bench player, but we never really knew if he could sustain it in a starter’s role.
The Pacers could use another clutch-scorer and Lamb hit multiple, big late-game shots last season, when all eyes were focused on Kemba. Granted, one of those was a half-court, buzzer-beater, but is it fair to say that he grew in confidence over his tenure with the Hornets?
I think that’s fair to say. The Hornets have always heavily relied on Walker in clutch situations, for better or for worse. Last season Lamb and Tony Parker were the only players outside of Walker that contributed on a regular basis with the game on the line. Outside of the buzzer beaters that everyone has seen, he scored several big buckets in key situations, like when the Hornets would go cold and needed a basket to stave off a run. It helps that he can create something out of nothing, so he can manufacture some points when things break down late in possessions as well.
Like fellow newcomer T.J. Warren, Lamb rarely passed on drives last season. Charlotte obviously needed his scoring and shot-creation, especially when he was moved to the bench in February, but should the Pacers be at all worried about the offense getting sticky?
Lamb does play with his head down a good bit. He’s not a selfish player by any means, but when he sets his mind to getting a shot off, he’s going to get a shot off. As for whether or not Pacers fans should be concerned, I don’t think so. His shoot-first offense wasn’t so bad to the point where it was hurting the team, and I don’t think that’ll be any different in Indiana. It’s not like he’s inefficient or ineffective.
Lastly, in his exit interview with Charlotte, Lamb made it clear that he has a team-first mentality in terms of starting or coming off the bench, but what would you say is his ideal role?
I think his ideal role is coming off the bench for the reasons we touched on in the last question. He’s not a black hole, but he is a bit of a ball stopper. He creates looks for himself, but it’s kind of in that James Harden-y way where he likes to dribble for 6-8 seconds to hunt for a shot, just instead of 3-pointers he shoots mid-range jumpers and floaters. It’s easier to make that fit in a bench role, especially for a team that’s trying to make a deeper run into the playoffs.