With only one year under his belt at Kansas, Ben McLemore has made a quick rise to stardom. It’s rare to see players grow into the spotlight as quickly as McLemore has, and that’s what has NBA scouts so intrigued about the 6-5 shooting guard. McLemore averaged 15.9 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field in his one year at Kansas, an extremely high clip for a shooting guard.
After winning both Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the Big 12, McLemore quickly began to gain attention from NBA scouts as a top-five prospect in the draft. With the way the chips have fallen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be selected No. 1 overall. In what most would call a weak draft in terms of star quality, McLemore’s All-Star potential is still receiving a lot of attention.
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NBA Comparison: O.J. Mayo
McLemore has that same eye opening potential that Mayo had coming out of USC. He has the all-around scoring package, combined with the size and athleticism that makes you think he has what it takes to be an All-Star. However, the question with O.J. Mayo was always his drive and determination. With McLemore it’s sort of the same thing. How bad does he really want to be great? Is he content with just being another role player in this league or does he want to take his game to the next level and become the next great shooting guard after the likes of Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Dwyane Wade? That’s something that’s truly up to him.
McLemore will be a solid guard in the NBA regardless. He has enough talent to have a decent career, but the question is if he’s satisfied with that. For the majority of O.J. Mayo’s career, he has been content with being a decent player. This year he showed flashes of the type of player he could become, but the lack of consistency is what’s holding him back. At worst, McLemore will be another O.J. Mayo. He’ll be a player capable of putting up big numbers occasionally but never on a consistent basis. Hopefully his drive and determination exceeds that of Mayo, so he doesn’t stall out the same way Mayo did.
McLemore is a supreme athlete for a shooting guard. He has all the necessary traits to become an electrifying player at the position. His jumping ability is good enough to catch backdoor lobs. His speed and quickness is good enough to attack the rim with force in transition. His strength allows him to finish at the rim, and his shiftiness allows him to get past defenders. At the combine, he marked a 42-inch max vertical leap, which needless to say is above average.
Although he’s a good athlete, McLemore can’t rely too much on his athleticism at the next level. In college, he was more athletic than his matchup on a nightly basis. In the NBA, it’s not going to be like that. He has to accept that and use his athleticism in creative ways to make the game come easy to him. Once he adjusts to the speed of the NBA he’ll learn to make things easier on himself with his athleticism as opposed to trying to outclass his opponent every night. McLemore is an above-average athlete, but the key for him is applying his athleticism the right way.
McLemore’s skill-set is what has people so impressed with him. His three-point shot is so smooth and natural. It’s where the Ray Allen comparisons come from. He shot 42 percent from three this season and much of it has to do with his refined shooting form. McLemore has what it takes to become a long-range sniper. He’s one of those players that you just can’t leave open on the perimeter. He has a good knowledge of when to shoot and when to pass up shots (as reflected by his high shooting percentage). In terms of strictly shooting, McLemore is a 10. However, it’s creating his own shot from the perimeter that he tends to have trouble with.
McLemore’s handle is just decent. It’s good enough to get him past defenders in transition, but he’s not the type of player you want to give the ball to on an island in an isolation setting. McLemore’s skill-set when it comes to creating his own shot is limited and that’s the aspect of his game he’ll have to work on most going forward.
NBA Readiness: 7
Standing 6-3.5 without shoes and nearly 6-5 with them, McLemore is built for the shooting guard position. He has the potential to be a pure scorer but his game isn’t that far along just yet. His on-ball defense isn’t quite up to par for the NBA level, and while he has the potential to become an All-Star, he could also stall out like O.J. Mayo. He has a tendency to go missing when the going gets tough. He scored less than 10 points on five different occasions this season, including a dismal two points on 0-for-9 shooting in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
At 6-4 or so, McLemore has the ideal size for an NBA shooting guard. He has good strength and has a mature stature. His size and strength will make it an easier transition to the NBA than expected. The reason he’s being targeted so young is because of his mature stature and the fact that he’s ready to compete in the NBA right now. Size wise, the NBA readiness isn’t a concern. It’s playing defense that McLemore must worry about. In today’s game, it seems like every young player struggles defensively. Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters and Austin Rivers all had their fair share of hardships on defense last year. Guys like Joe Johnson and Kobe Bryant eat young guys like that for breakfast. It won’t be anything new with McLemore. He will get exposed at some point. It’s just a matter of how often he allows that to happen.
McLemore’s cerebral approach to the game isn’t all the way caught up yet either. On countless occasions, he missed box-outs and got caught ball watching. The pro and college games are night and day. McLemore won’t be able to hide on the defensive end the way he was able to in college, so sooner or later he must gain the desire to want to be a great defender. It’s that motivation that turns guys into great defensive players. He has the size and quickness to do it, but must match that with a better knowledge and understanding of defensive concepts.
Because of his youth, McLemore’s game isn’t developed enough to carry a team right now. In the next three years (which he could’ve spent at Kansas), there’s a strong chance his game could develop into that. His combination of size, athleticism and his raw skill-set gives him a high ceiling, but right now, he’s far away from the player he’s capable of becoming.
Ben McLemore is one of the few players in this draft with All-Star potential. His ability to finish at the rim and hit shots from the outside make you believe he has a chance to be a 20-point scorer in the league. Pair that with his size and athletic ability and there’s no telling how good he could actually become. Once McLemore matures a bit, and gets accustomed to taking high volume shots as the first option offensively on an NBA team, that’s when he’ll truly come into his own as a player.
Ben McLemore’s intangibles are what scouts are unsure of. With only one year under his belt, it’s a hard thing to evaluate. He’s shown that can take over games down the stretch, but he’s also shown that he has a tendency to disappear. McLemore scored less than 10 points on five different occasions this season, including the first round of the NCAA tournament when he had a dismal two points on 0-for-9 shooting.
McLemore isn’t ready to be a franchise player right away. He’s not the type of player that can come in and drive a franchise from day one like Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose. His leadership qualities haven’t been stamped. It’s going to take time for him to grow into a leadership role in the NBA.
There’s no question that he’s a top-three prospect, but McLemore is benefiting because the draft lacks real star quality. As a result, he’s being chosen by some as the face of the draft. That comes with expectations. If he’s selected No. 1 overall — not out of the question — people are going to expect him to come in and be a Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose. He’s not ready for that. Hopefully he doesn’t let those expectations get the best of him.
Score: 38 of a possible 50 points
Best Fit: Orlando Magic
The Cleveland Cavaliers own the first overall pick, but they don’t need a perimeter scorer. They already have an All-Star player in Kyrie Irving, who’s quickly become the face of the franchise. And frankly, he has all the help that he needs in the backcourt with Dion Waiters as his running mate. The Orlando Magic have built a solid young foundation in the frontcourt with Vucevic, Harkless and Harris. But what they lack is that go-to perimeter scorer. Ben McLemore could be that for the Magic. In Orlando, he’ll be able to lean on the production of his frontcourt and mature at his own pace. In a place like Charlotte, he’ll have to come in and get everything on his own, which isn’t in his best interests.
5. McLemore shuts it down in practice
4. A ridiculous dunk off a baseline play at Ohio State
3. Making people look silly in high school
2. McLemore puts two players on a post in the same game
1. McLemore holding it down all year with Kansas
How good will he be in the NBA?
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