Back in late May when Scott Levin and I were mapping out our draft coverage for A Royal Pain, Levin and I agreed the only two 2013 Draft lottery prospect that were not worth covering were Kentucky center Nerlens Noel… and Kansas guard Ben McLemore. Considering that at the time the two were expected to be in the top three picks, we could be easily forgiven for doubting that they’d be around when Sacramento selected at No. 7.
But this draft wasn’t like any other draft. The 2013 NBA Draft shaped up to be the craziest draft in decades – and it ended with McLemore in Sacramento, a place logic never placed him to land (even crazier was the fact that Noel, a longtime favorite for the top spot, went No. 6 to New Orleans… but let’s focus on the man who will be wearing the Kings jersey).
An early draft day rumor from Yahoo Sport’s Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned that the Kings were in talks with the Phoenix Suns (owners of the No. 5 selection) hoping to trade up to snag McLemore. In the end, Phoenix snatched up Maryland center Alex Len and McLemore fell right to the Kings anyways.
Considering that we have no profile to link to for McLemore, here’s all you need to know about the former Jayhawk Star.
SG, 6’5″, 190 lbs.
Freshman, Kansas University
20 years old
2012-13 Stats: 15.9 PPG (49.5% FG, 87.0% FT, 42.0% 3FG), 5.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, .7 BPG, 2.1 TOPG
STRENGTHS: McLemore has as much offensive potential as anyone in the class, garnering comparison’s to Miami’s Ray Allen. While that might be overselling McLemore’s abilities a bit, his jumpshot and three point range are undeniable. As a freshman, he shot 55% from 2 point range and 42% from three, both excellent numbers. His 62.2% true shooting percent is way above-average for a 20 year old in his first year of college action.
McLemore isn’t just a long rang shooter – he loves getting to the basket and is a highlight dunker. He had a 42.0 max vertical at the combine, and he’s one of the more fluid athletes in the draft. A ton of his baskets in college were off of lobs (watch the video below for more).
And while McLemore is an above-average shooter, he’s also a willing and capable passer. He isn’t a ball-needy player – he finished with a 23.3% usage rate and a 12.6% assist rate, both solid numbers for a guy who was the top option for Kansas. General Manager Pete D’Alessandro is a well-known analytics guy, and he probably loved McLemore’s numbers.
Defensively, McLemore is above-average. His athleticism helps and his instincts were also sharp. With his 6’8 wingspan and hops, he’s good at disrupting shooters and getting into the passing lanes. DraftExpress notes that opponents managed just 25% of their jumpshots against him last season.
WEAKNESSES: Much of the offensive concerns about McLemore surround his ability to create his own shots. No one doubts his shooting ability, but he wasn’t great at creating space. Oftentimes when a clear offensive option didn’t appear to him, he forced his way through traffic or made poor decisions that ended up as turnovers. His handles, while not terrible, need work as well – he lost way too many possessions to poor shots.
There is also concern as to his personality – does he have the determination to dominate when he needs too? He vanished spectacularly in Kansas’ season ending loss to Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen, and was inconsistent overall late in the season. At times, he was just too passive, a trait you never want to see in a ball player. New Kings coach Mike Malone will need to have a defined role for McLemore and establish early exactly what he wants and expects.
HOW HE’LL FIT WITH THE KINGS: The Kings already have three well known shooting guards – Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette. While many spectated after the selection that the McLemore pick might mean the Kings will let Evans walk in free agency, I believe the selection likely has less to do with Evans and more to do with both Fredette and Thornton.
Of the three, Evans is the best fit with McLemore. Evans could slide to either the point guard spot or the small forward spot, and his size and strength could make him a good defensive fit playing alongside McLemore. Neither Thornton and Fredette are known for the defensive skills, and neither have Evans’ pure passing ability, so a McLemore/Thornton or McLemore/Fredette lineup wouldn’t be as effective.
In my book, the McLemore selection most likely ends the Sacramento career for either Thornton or Jimmer, and perhaps possibly both. McLemore is a more talented, higher potential player than either and plays a similar role. It’s possible to imagine a scenario where he could start with Evans – it’s much harder to imagine a scenario where he start/plays significant minutes with Fredette or Thornton.
In the long term, McLemore could end up being the 2nd/3rd option behind DeMarcus Cousins with his sharpshooting skills and defensive footwork. We’re still trying to figure out just who else fits in there for Sacramento.
SCOTT LEVIN’S GRADE: A
As soon as Anthony Bennett went No. 1 overall to the Cavs, you knew this draft’s first round would be full of surprises. And as the lottery unfolded, it became clear the Kings would have a shot at prospects we thought would be long gone by No. 7. Getting Ben McLemore, a player the Kings tried desperately to trade up for, without losing any other assets looks amazing on paper. McLemore seems to be the consensus “highest upside” player, the one most likely to become a star in a low-regarded draft. McLemore just looks the part — he has a super smooth stroke and downs outside jumpers with regularity. He also shows terrific athleticism, which bodes well for his ability to break down defenders. At 20 years old, he’s only scratching the surface. This was a no-brainer pick and hearing the new management’s elation over the selection only fuels my own excitement.
There is an obvious log jam in the Kings backcourt, and the addition of McLemore raises all types of questions on Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette. But this was an easy case of drafting the best available player. No doubt McLemore was the proper choice; the rest will sort itself out later.
BRYANT’S GRADE: A
McLemore was ranked No. 3 on both my and Levin’s big boards. Getting him at No. 7 is a downright steal for Sacramento.
Kings fans may be a little gun shy with Kansas players right about now; last year, big man Thomas Robinson shockingly fell to the Kings at No. 5, but after a torrid 8 months they traded him to Houston. While the Robinson debacle was a disappointment, there is no reason to ding McLemore because he both went to the same college and, like Robinson, fell further than expected.
Regardless of why McLemore fell to Sacramento, and more importantly, regardless of the Kings current roster, this was the obvious and correct pick to make. Sacramento couldn’t pass on a player with McLemore’s potential – he’s already an NBA level shooter, an above-average defender, and has as much potential as any player in this draft. If Michael Malone is able to inspire the youngster, he could end up as the steal of the class at No. 7.
Later in the second round, the Kings added Detroit guard Ray McCallum, a junior speedster who averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. He’s above-average athletically and shot 49.5% from the field on the season, but he never established himself as a long range shooter and never wowed with his floor general skills. It’s an interesting selection, considering the Kings depth of guards and the fact that they left a number of talented SF prospects on the board when they took McCallum (North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin and North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie all went after the Kings selection.) It isn’t a poor selection by any standards, but time will tell if the Kings have the need for McCallum.