Anthony Lamb has been Warriors’ ‘secret’ to recent second unit success

Lamb has been ‘secret’ to Warriors’ second unit success originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – The secret sauce to the recent success of the Warriors’ second unit is Draymond Green, because he brings leadership. Or it’s Jordan Poole because he has been freed by Draymond’s presence. Or it’s Donte DiVincenzo because he brings perimeter defense.

These assertions are not entirely valid, though, because none of these guys is a secret. Each has known success in the NBA.

The real secret is Anthony Lamb, who while taking the long road to the Bay seems to be a lab creation of Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

“He’s a versatile player,” Kerr said after practice Thursday after practice at Chase Center. “He’s a quick catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. The ball doesn’t stop when it hits his hands. When he’s open, he usually gets it off quickly. And he’s shooting it really well. He does a lot of things well that contribute to winning.”

Golden State’s second unit has flourished over the past few games, and its glue is Lamb, a relatively anonymous combo forward who from 2016-2020 was a four-year starter at the University of Vermont.

Lamb, who turns 25 next month, came to the Warriors in October having never signed a standard NBA contract. Eight weeks later, he still hasn’t. He is operating on his fourth two-way deal in 21 months, during which he squeezed in a 10-day contract with the Spurs.

After being active only once in Golden State’s first nine games, Lamb has become a fixture in the rotation. He has appeared in each of the last 12 games, generally playing 14 to 24 minutes, the vast majority of it with the second unit.

Kerr’s infatuation with Lamb began more than a year ago, when the coach went to Santa Cruz to watch Golden State’s G League affiliate. Lamb was with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, an affiliate of the Houston Rockets. Kerr liked what he saw then – “he jumped off the page” – and was delighted when the Golden State front office invited Lamb to camp when the team returned from its Japan trip in late September.

“First day back that we scrimmaged, and again he jumped off the page,” Kerr recalled Thursday. “Just his feel. His passing. His spatial awareness. His strength, he’s got a lot of girth and the ability to stay in front of big guys.”

“Feel” is a distilled definition of aptitude. Lamb has it.

Lamb, who turns 25 next month, is a vagabond veteran, much like several who were on the roster last season – Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II come to mind. Such players represent examples that basketball aptitude might be the essential requirement to prosper in Kerr’s system.

At 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, Lamb fits the “positionless” profile coveted in the league, particularly by the Warriors. He brings a combination of grit and smarts that intensify his value.

“He’s playing his role and he’s asking a lot of questions,” Poole said. “He knew our offense and our system is a bit complicated at first, but when he started to understand what he was supposed to do – being able to catch and shoot, give us energy, dive on the floor, get rebounds, box out, wall up, a lot of the simple stuff – it makes it easier for him on the offensive end. And he’s knocking shots down.

“Being able to have him out there to space the floor and give that second group a little bit of life, a little bit of energy, has been key.”

Lamb has played as many as 37 minutes (when starters were resting) and only once since Nov. 3 has he played fewer than eight minutes. He’s shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 43.6 percent beyond the arc. His averages of 6.1 points and 3.5 rebound and 1.6 assists translate to 12.1, 6.9 and 3.1 on a 36-minute basis.

His defensive versatility has been useful in a lineup with Draymond at center and his general efficiency has been an asset to the offense. The result has been a seamless fit with the bench squad, which ended a negative first month before Kerr made the proper adjustments.

One such adjustment was the addition of Lamb, who had a Warriors cheat sheet before signing his two-way contract on Oct. 14. He had studied the Warriors, an endeavor made easier by their frequent trips to the postseason.

“I’ve seen so much Warriors stuff growing up that it’s like I’ve had a feel for what they’re trying to do and what their looks are,” Lamb said. “But definitely when I got here, I was just watching and picking up how the starters play together and what they’re looking for, like the subtleties of the way they move and how they slip out of screens and stuff like that.

“You don’t really get that experience just watching on TV, but it’s very apparent when I went from watching to actually seeing these guys in the gym.”

Draymond’s leadership is well known. Poole’s gift for scoring has made its way around the NBA. DiVincenzo’s ability to benefit his team at both ends dates back his time with 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks.

RELATED: Draymond fined $25K for obscene language directed at fan

Jonathan Kuminga’s affinity for the spectacular has had him on the league’s radar from the moment he was drafted.

Lamb is the second unit’s mystery man. The “who’s-he” dude with the big hair. The guy who guards the 7-foot center on one possession, the 6-2 guard on the next. He’s the secret.

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