Upon getting drafted into the NBA, whereas everyone enjoys being a part of a winning environment, there's no denying that the better prospects will usually get more playing time on teams that have struggled in the past and are looking for new potential positive contributions.
Selected by the Rockets as a lottery pick in last summer's NBA Draft, Jeremy Lamb was likely preparing to play substantial minutes for the rebuilding squad as they aimed to change the culture in Houston.
But instead of waiting to see how things played out and depend on their young talent to eventually develop, the Rockets had other plans as to how they would make themselves a winner once again.
Putting together a package of expiring contract(s) and promising prospects, Houston cashed it all in for a proven player in James Harden, who was poised and ready to be unleashed as an NBA star.
As such, Lamb found himself packing for Oklahoma City. On the championship-contending Thunder, the guard may have been a part of OKC's future plans, but minutes were going to be difficult to come by with the likes of top talents Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook running the show. Their time in now, and Lamb's time will be later.
But that doesn't mean the organization has turned their back on his development. Though they can't afford to give Lamb minutes on an NBA hardwood during this key time of contention, OKC has provided him with the next best thing.
On what seemed like almost a nightly basis, Lamb found himself going back and forth (with a rotation of his fellow young gun teammates that has included DeAndre Liggins, Perry Jones III, and Daniel Orton) between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, to log some minutes in the NBA D-League with the Thunder affiliate 66ers.
Whereas in the NBA, Lamb is forced to defer to two of the NBA's biggest stars, in the NBADL, he himself is looked at as the starring attraction in town. Averaging 21 points (on 49% from the field and 35% from deep), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.2 steals through 21 contests this season), the guard emerged as a D-League All-Star.
Though he's constantly going back and forth between NBA and minor league life, Lamb has recently returned to Tulsa on a more regular basis to help them through the D-League playoffs. After averaging almost identical numbers to those of his regular season stats, Lamb helped the 66ers past the first round. Despite scoring 29 points in Tulsa's first game of their next series against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (ironically the affiliate of the Rockets, who earlier traded Lamb to OKC), the guard failed lead the 66ers to victory against RGV. They'll need to the latter two games of the series if they want to punch a ticket to the NBADL Finals.
And you can bet if they do, Lamb is likely to be around for that ride as well. Rising up as a star for the 66ers clearly serves as a confidence booster. Oklahoma City assumedly hopes that such success will eventually translate on the NBA hardwood, but at least for now, they're doing the best things possible to better prepare him for a similar big league role in the future.