NBA

Anthony Lamb has been the Warriors’ “secret” to the second unit’s recent success

Anthony Lamb has been the Warriors’ “secret” to the second unit’s recent success

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

These claims aren’t entirely true, though, because none of these guys are a secret. All have known success in the NBA.

The real secret is Anthony Lamb, who as he takes the long route to the bay appears to be a laboratory creation of Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

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

Golden State’s second unit has thrived in recent games, and its tailback is Lamb, a relatively anonymous combo forward who was a four-year starter at the University of Vermont from 2016-20.

Lamb, who turns 25 next month, he came to the Warriors in October never having 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 inked a 10-day contract with the Spurs.

After being active just 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 14-24 minutes, the vast majority 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 — it “jumped off the page” — and was delighted when Golden State’s front office invited Lamb to camp when the team returned from its trip to Japan in late September.

“The first day we played, and it jumped off the page again,” Kerr recalled Thursday. “Just his feel. His pace. 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. The lamb has it.

Lamb, who turns 25 next month, is a veteran slugger, like many who were on the roster last season — Otto Porter Jr. comes to mind. and Gary Payton II. These players represent examples that basketball ability could be the essential requirement to thrive in Kerr’s system.

At 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, Lamb fits the “positionless” profile coveted around the league, especially by the Warriors. It brings a combination of wit and intelligence that intensify its value.

“He’s doing his part and he’s asking a lot of questions,” Poole said. “I knew at first that our offense and our system is a little complicated, but when he started to understand what he had to do: be able to catch and shoot, give us energy, get down the floor, get rebounds, box out, wall, a lot of the simple stuff – he makes it easy for the offensive end. And he’s knocking down shots.

“Being able to have him there to space the floor and give that second group some life, some energy, that’s been key.”

Lamb has played up to 37 minutes (when starters were rested) and only once since Nov. 3 has he played less than eight minutes. He is shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from beyond the arc. His averages of 6.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists translate to 12.1, 6.9 and 3.1 per 36 minutes.

His defensive versatility has been useful in a lineup with Draymond under center, and his overall efficiency has been an asset to the offense. The result has been a perfect fit with the bench team, which suffered through a negative first month before Kerr made the right adjustments.

One of those adjustments 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 effort made easier by their frequent trips to the postseason.

“I’ve seen so much of the Warriors growing up that it’s like I’ve gotten a sense of what they’re trying to do and what they look like,” 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 come off screens and things like that.

“You don’t really get that experience just watching on TV, but it’s very evident when I went from watching to watching 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 on both ends dates back to his time with the 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks.

RELATED: Draymond fined $25,000 for obscene language directed at a fan

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

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

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