Welcome to a New Year's Day edition of the Orlando Pinstriped Post Mailbag. If you have an Orlando Magic question you'd like me or Tyler Lashbrook to answer, please submit it to OPPMailbag@gmail.com or post it to the OPP Facebook page.
Let's tackle today's question.
I've seen a lot of talk about our young players and how they are being developed and when talking about our future. The thing is that I don't ever see any one mention Doron Lamb in our rebuild or development talks [...]
So my question is why aren't we working on his game? With a team that is limited on a three-point threat ever since we lost JJ [Redick], he should be getting more playing time then the occasional garbage minutes he receives at lost games.
One reason for Lamb's anonymity is his lack of hype, even coming into the NBA as the leading scorer for an NCAA championship team. Questions on topics including but not limited to his lack of size caused him to slide to the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft, and nobody really seemed surprised he fell that far.
He's a mid-tier prospect on whom Orlando managed to take a flier in the Redick-Tobias Harris trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, but now he's facing a logjam at shooting guard, trailing a likely All-Star in Arron Afflalo, a possible Rookie of the Year candidate in Victor Oladipo, and another prospect in E'Twaun Moore who's earned the coaching staff's trust.
When asked about Lamb prior to Tuesday's game against the Golden State Warriors, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said that Lamb and Moore "have been really battling for position and battling for time." So far, Moore--averaging 6.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists--has won that battle. As a result, 50 of Lamb's 99 minutes in the 2013/14 campaign have come with Orlando trailing by 11 points or more.
Vaughn indicated that Lamb's season got off to a rough start, and it's a fair point to make: the Kentucky product averaged 11.3 points per game in 25 minutes at the Orlando Pro Summer League, shooting 50 percent from the floor and demonstrating an improved ability to make plays for himself, before he banged his knee and missed the rest of the session. And then, in training camp, Lamb tweaked his left ankle. That injury forced him to miss the entire preseason.
Bad luck aside, Lamb still has some learning to do in order to see more regular playing time. "He's continuing to learn how to play defense at a high level every possession," Vaughn said. "That's a tough thing to do for young players, to be in the right position [defensively]." Orlando's coach did say Lamb has shown "a pretty good knack" for defending well on the ball in practice.
If and when Lamb does earn more consistent minutes, he'll likely take more three-pointers. The Magic made that aspect of his game a point of emphasis over the summer, and it's easy to see why: in his two collegiate seasons, Lamb shot 47.5 percent from beyond the arc on 3.9 attempts per game, with threes representing 43.7 percent of his total shot attempts.
But in his rookie year split between Milwaukee and Orlando, threes comprised only 22.7 percent of his field-goal tries. That dynamic has changed: in 13 appearances in 2013/14, 13 of his 20 shot attempts have been threes.
"We want him to shoot the ball. We think that he's a capable shooter," Vaughn said, noting that he's used Lamb in "small-ball" lineups to keep the floor spread.
My belief is that Orlando will find some time for Lamb before the season ends. Vaughn praised his "knowledge of the game" and ability to play either guard spot, and I think the Magic will want to get a closer look at him in game situations before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2014.
The short answer to your question, Lenning, is that injuries, the Magic's glut of guards, and Lamb's need to improve defensively have come together to limit his minutes.