What’s the difference between Jeremy Lamb and Will Barton?

June 14th, 2012 by Kevin Hetrick

Let’s answer that question later.

The genesis of this post resulted through an amalgamation of three separate ideas.  First, a personal desire to re-think Jeremy Lamb.  I coincidentally profiled him during the lowest-performing part of his season.  That, combined with a lot of Cavs fans showing interest in him, warrants another look from Cavs: the Blog.  Second, Fran Fraschilla wrote an article at ESPN where he described his preference for Lamb over Brad Beal, summarizing his rationale for the young Huskie as: “because of his size, length, and effectiveness in an NBA offense’s ‘sweet spot’, the 15 – to 18-ft range.” Given this sentiment from a widely read (i.e. real) draft expert, I wanted to form a solid opinion on his argument, due to the significant impact on Cleveland’s selection.  Finally, I started researching for a profile on Memphis Sophomore Will Barton.  The summation of these three separate concepts resulted in a variety of mini-research-projects; all worth bringing to you here.

Jeremy Lamb makes an incredibly athletic play, opponent probably cries afterwards (photo by Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

I’ll start by discussing perceived Lamb shortfalls this past season, of which many refer to the “shoot-first” point guards he played with.  Viewing his teammates versus Beal’s though, interesting results derive.  UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright averaged 5.8 and 4.0 assists per game, compared to the 4.6 and 2.7 of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, respectively.  The sum of the Huskie backcourt duo’s usage is 45.4, almost exactly equal to the 45.5 of the Gator guards, except Napier & Boatright’s assist rates were 32.6 and 26.1%, as opposed to the 27.3 and 17.3 of Walker and Boynton.  When viewed along with Lamb’s usage of 22.3 and Beal’s at 22.5; the distribution of possessions amongst these trios could not be closer.

As a whole, Florida’s offense produced over one assist more per game than Connecticut’s, but some of that responsibility lies on Lamb, as his 1.7 assists in 37 minutes slightly lagged Beal’s 2.2 in less time.  Based on a high-level look, it would seem the shot-creating abilities and offensive distribution of the two teams was very similar.

Another primary support argument for Lamb is his size, but based on combine measurements, Lamb only sports 3/4” height over Beal.  His standing reach stretched 2” higher, but when combined with Beal’s advantage in leaping, the two players prove virtually equal.  Lamb’s wings spanned three inches longer, but Beal packed on twenty extra pounds of muscle.  Which is better?  I don’t know, but a scan of the 26 drafted shooting guards with 6’ – 11” wingspan or longer in draftexpress’s database features one player named to one all-defense team.  While obviously valuable, great length does not guarantee anything.

So, basically the comparison comes down to production.  And they’re pretty equal, despite the thirteen month age discrepancy.  Both players registered a PER of 22 and an offensive rating in the mid-110’s, with similar usage.  To me, Beal is younger, a better passer & rebounder, and ultimately, my inclination is his demeanor and intangibles result in a superior NBA career….

So now, on to this article’s title question.  Read the following two paragraphs and let me know who sounds preferable.

The 9th-ranked player in the high school class of 2010 recently completed his sophomore season; averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers in 35 minutes per game on 51 / 35 / 75 shooting.  These box score numbers resulted in excellent efficiency of 26.4 PER and an offensive rating of 116 on 25 usage.  As a slashing wing, 82% of his points came from inside the arc or at the free throw line. A relatively old sophomore who turned 21 in January; his college production certainly owes something to the added experience, but his team played a relatively difficult NCAA schedule, with the 60th toughest slate of 345 teams.  Standing 6’ – 5” barefoot with a 6’ – 10” wingspan and weighing 174 pounds, he tested poorly in the athleticism tests at the combine, however draftexpress describes him as having the “right size, length and athleticism” for the shooting guard position.  About his defense in their 2011 – 2012 profile, they said his “athleticism, length and lateral quickness bode well for his transition to the NBA level, but scouts will likely be concerned with his slight frame…his activity level is plus though, as he’s really seemed to focus on this as a sophomore.”

And player number 2…

The 89th-ranked player in the high school class of 2010 recently completed his sophomore season; averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in 37 minutes per game on 48 / 34 / 81 shooting.  These box score numbers resulted in very good efficiency of 22 PER and a 115 offensive rating on 22 usage.  A strong jump shooter; over one-third of his points came outside the arc, but he only shot one free throw for every four field goal attempts.  Young for a sophomore, turning 20 in May, his production is impressive against the NCAA’s 16th most difficult schedule.  Standing 6’ – 4” barefoot with a 6’ – 11” wingspan and weighing 179 pounds, his athleticism tests excelled at the combine.  Draftexpress described him as possessing “nice size for an NBA shooting guard” but “his thin, lanky frame still needs to add strength”.  About his defense in 2011 – 2012, they wrote he “has the physical tools to excel, as he has good lateral quickness and instincts and is able to utilize his tremendous wingspan…his energy on this end looked very inconsistent this season, however, not displaying the competitiveness…that will likely be demanded of him at the NBA level.”

Who is the better prospect?  Both are similarly sized: thin, long, and athletic.  The older player was more productive, albeit against a slightly weaker schedule.  His defensive intensity proved more impressive, but time is running out for him to bulk up his stick-thin frame.  I guess, flip a coin, right?

Will Barton makes scoring look easy (photo by Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

If you didn’t realize this, Will Barton receives coverage in the first paragraph, and the second entails Jeremy Lamb.  Barton is likely a late-first-round or early-second-round pick, while Lamb receives nearly universal acceptance as a top-ten pick.  Obviously the paragraphs above provide no credit to Lamb for his role in delivering UConn an NCAA championship.  On the other hand, in last year’s Big East and NCAA Tourneys, were Lamb’s 15 points on 66% true shooting more impressive than Doron Lamb’s 15 points on 65% this year?  For either player, is it wise to overly weight a ten-game run compared to a full body-of-work?

If the goal is to be provocative, I’d turn the “Lamb over Beal” argument into a “Barton over Lamb” piece.  Like everyone else though, I prefer Jeremy Lamb.  As a good-case NBA comparable for Lamb, I’ll offer Jamal Crawford.  A similarly sized and athletic player, with an offensive mindset who probably scores 15000 NBA points, along with winning a sixth-man-of-the-year award.

If capable of building a highly complex model to project these things, I think it would tell me that Jeremy Lamb surpasses 15000 career points in 42% of scenarios.  Barton does not quite reach those heights, instead besting Crawford only 19% of the time.  That difference is not as large as many would think.  If the Cavs snag their favorite at #4 and bring Barton on-board later…that is a drafty-day-haul with potential.