Arguably the most active NBA team when it comes to utilizing its D-League affiliate so far this season, the contending Oklahoma City Thunder have continued to use the Tulsa 66ers to harbor, discover, and develop new young talent.
After awarding DeAndre Liggins the team's final roster spot out of training camp, the Thunder subsequently waived Daniel Orton, Andy Rautins, and Hollis Thompson. Since, Rautins and Thompson have both caught on with the 66ers. Orton was actually later re-signed by Oklahoma City, and now he and Liggins are both on assignment in Tulsa.
Currently with a 12-4 record, the Thunder have proven they can still compete for a championship after re-tooling a bit and trading James Harden. Clearly, after trading the swingman so that he could cash in on a more lucrative contract elsewhere, it makes sense that the contender is also keeping an eye on the minors, where cheap yet promising pieces for the long-term future can be found.
With this in mind, the Thunder assigned yet another one of its younger players to the NBA D-League, sending highly-regarded rookie Jeremy Lamb off to Tulsa.
Acquired in the Harden trade, Lamb has the tools necessary to become a very special offensive player in The Association. With the Thunder gunning for an NBA title this season, however, they may not be able to afford the minutes needed to help Lamb truly flourish just yet.
Instead, the team is putting Lamb in the position to become an NBADL star. In the 66ers' first two games, both Liggins and Orton have thrived, seemingly dominating their competition with ease thus far. Perhaps Lamb is poised to do the same, but what will be a key to his success in the minors?
During the D-League's opening weekend, Tulsa put on display quite the fast-paced offensive unit. Examining the team's roster, it's easy to see there's a log-jam at the shooting guard position. Thus, the 66ers' coaching staff has had to highlight its lineups with shorter players across the board, playing small-ball throughout.
Of course, Lamb's assignment (and the task of getting him appropriate minutes) takes priority over some of the squad's other up and coming players looking to prove themselves. That said, many of the team's two-guards have displayed perhaps what could be considered an overzealous nature with the basketball to start the season. Though they like to push the tempo, offensive possessions have often ended in errant shots getting tossed up, rather than easy buckets due to ball movement.
So how can the Thunder expect Lamb to thrive? Clearly a sharpshooter who likes to be set up in the right spots all around the court, the rookie needs a floor general. A steady point guard with good vision to help get Lamb the ball and create opportunities will undoubtedly be key to his own development.
Enter Tony Taylor Jr. Though the 66ers have so far been able to simply let the bombs fly, their offensive sets will likely need to be reworked with Lamb as the focal point. Thus, Taylor Jr., who has started Tulsa's first two contests, should get even more of an opportunity to show off his playmaking abilities.
With Rautins representing more of a combo-guard than a traditional passer, it should be Taylor Jr. who the 66ers look to in order to help organize its offense. Instead of letting the shooters bring up the ball, it may be beneficial to run the offense through the GWU alum instead. This wouldn't only highlight Taylor Jr.'s special skills, but it would likely also bring out the best in his teammates as well.
Now that Lamb is a 66er, it's clear he's poised to dominate the NBA D-League in Tulsa. It's just a matter of how his new squad decides to help him thrive.