Magic’s Doron Lamb showed progress, but defense must improve

Doron Lamb's player efficiency rating and shooting percentage went up in 2013-14.

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Doron Lamb has still not played the equivalent of a full 82-game season with the Orlando Magic.

He doesn’t possess the length of Maurice Harkless, the combination of defensive tenacity and 3-point shooting of E’Twaun Moore, or the all-around athleticism and seemingly boundless potential of Victor Oladipo. As a result, finding adequate playing time ahead of any of those three on a team brimming with young players continues to be a dicey proposition.

But when given the chance after the All-Star break to contribute on a more regular basis, the 6-foot-4 guard two years removed from Kentucky’s national championship team began to show signs of progress. While many of his minutes came in games where the outcome was no longer in doubt, Lamb tried to not let that enter his mind.

”Just don’t worry about the score. Just go out there and play hard and try to earn minutes,” he said after scoring a season-high 14 points on April 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a game in which the Magic trailed by as many as 28.

Like many other NBA teams, the Magic are using advanced statistics as part of the way to measure a player’s development and effectiveness. In almost all categories, Lamb improved upon what little he accomplished in 24 games after being acquired with Tobias Harris from the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2013.

Lamb’s player efficiency rating, a standardized measure of per-minute production, went up during the 53 games he played this past season. So did his true shooting percentage, a measurement that takes into account field goals from 2-point and 3-point range as well as free throws.

More than half of his field-goal attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc. Lamb finished with as many 3-pointers made (36) as free throws attempted.

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It has been on defense where the most improvement is necessary. That process was late in getting started after Lamb sprained his right ankle in training camp and missed the entire preseason.

”On the practice court, he’s been good," Vaughn told the Orlando Sentinel in early January. ”He’s continuing to learn how to play defense at a high level every possession, and that’s a tough thing to do for young players: to be in the right position. That’s not only on the ball — I think he has a pretty good knack of being an on-the-ball defender — but away from the ball as well.”

As if to make up for that lost time in October and early November, the season ended with Vaughn letting Lamb play the entire second and third quarters and most of the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers.

No one should expect 40 minutes a night out of Lamb next season. But if he stays healthy, he should figure in the Magic’s plans more prominently.

WHAT HE DID RIGHT

Only Arron Afflalo had a higher shooting percentage on the Magic from 3-point range than Lamb, who connected on 36 of his 90 attempts. It would be stretching things to describe his role as that of instant offense, but considering he won’t turn 23 until around the start of next season, he has time to develop into that.

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WHERE HE NEEDS TO IMPROVE

Many of his shots came on spot-up jumpers. Lamb needs to become more consistent at creating his own scoring opportunities and getting to the free-throw line. Working on his defense remains a high priority as well.

BEST GAME

April 16 vs. Indiana. Lamb ended his first full season with the Magic by playing a career-high 40 minutes and going 3-of-7 from 3-point range in a 101-86 loss to the Pacers.

LOOKING AHEAD

As a second-round draft pick in 2012, Lamb is in the same contractual situation as Kyle O’Quinn where he’ll make less than $1 million in 2014-15 in the final year of his deal. But O’Quinn showed by far the most progress of the two from their rookie seasons.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.