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Why the Charlotte Hornets Paid Jeremy Lamb

Chuck Burton AP

Up to this point in his career, Jeremy Lamb is best known for being a footnote in the trade that brought James Harden to Houston. Despite this, the Charlotte Hornets and Jeremy Lamb agreed on a three-year $21 million extension on Sunday, that was made official on Monday.

When examined in a vacuum, the deal verges on being ludicrous—just another regrettable deal in a long line of mistakes made by Michael Jordan and the Hornets’ front office. Lamb is a fringe player that hasn’t lived up to the expectations of being the No. 12 in the 2012 draft. Luckily for him, contract extensions are rarely that simple.

Most, if not all, rookie contract extensions are based on potential rather than past production. The Charlotte Hornets believe that Jeremy Lamb can be a solid contributor. However, they might be the only ones that do. His first three seasons were with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who assigned him to the D-League twelve times.

They were underwhelming to say the least. He rarely got off the bench, and when he did, the stints were forgettable. Obviously his past performance isn’t exactly encouraging but there are additional factors affecting Charlotte’s decision to extend Lamb’s contract at the mentioned rate.

The most pressing factor is the rising salary cap. Next summer the cap is projected to rise to $89 million from its current ceiling of $70 million. In the summer of 2017, the cap is predicted to jump to $108 million. NBA teams will have more money than ever to entice free agents. Some teams will be able to snag big names, but most will be competing for promising, mid-level players. These players will be in line for paydays well above their actual worth and production. Charlotte avoided this scenario by making sure Jeremy Lamb never hit the free agent market.

According to Bobby Marks – former assistant general manager of the Nets, the first year of Lamb’s extension is worth $6,511,628. That would represent 7.3 percent of Charlotte’s cap room next season. His contract will most likely not jeopardize the team’s financial flexibility. Seen through that lens, Lamb’s contract becomes more palatable. Besides the rise in the salary cap, Lamb might be worth more to the Hornets than he would be to other NBA teams.

Charlotte has never been considered a desirable location for free agents so if Lamb can realize some of his potential and view the team as a long-term home, this deal looks like a win for the Hornets. As to whether Lamb can be productive is a different matter entirely.

Four games into the Hornets’ season, Lamb has scored a total of 40 points and played an average of 19.7 minutes a game – he didn’t play in the first game. Half of his total points came from yesterday’s game against the Bulls. Along with 20 points, he finished the game with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Some of that came in garbage time in the Hornets’ win, but he has shot 50 percent from three and displayed an interesting off-the-dribble game. He has flashed the ability to get to the rim with relative ease.

LambLayup

He even used this ability to find some easy buckets for his teammates.

LambAssist

There is still a very strong chance that the idea of Jeremy Lamb as a basketball player is better than the actual player, but if he can prove otherwise, Charlotte might have secured a good player at a very good price.

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