Three years ago, the Sacramento Kings drafted point guard Isaiah Thomas with the final pick in the 2011 draft. Thomas, who was overlooked by all 30 NBA teams, quickly went from Mr. Irrelevant to a key player for the Kings. In his rookie season he averaged 11 points and three assists and started 37 games for the Kings. Through his three years in Sacramento, Thomas grew into one of the best offensive point guards in the NBA and his talent was on full display last season as he averaged 20 points and six assists. Sadly, Thomas has moved on from Sacramento, but they have another young players waiting for his chance. That player is Ray McCallum.
Who is Ray McCallum?
McCallum is the son to Ray McCallum Sr., who is a former college basketball player and currently the head coach for the University of Detroit. He was born in Detroit, Michigan but played his first two years of high school in Indiana. For his final two years of high school he returned to Detroit.
McCallum quickly emerged as one of the top high school players in the nation. Following a senior year that saw him average 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, McCallum held offers from many of the top college basketball powerhouses in the nation. Ranked as a top-50 player nationally, McCallum shocked everyone by committing to the University of Detroit, where his father was the head coach.
McCallum was one of the highest caliber recruits to every join Detroit and he immediately took over as the leader of the team. In three years with Detroit he averaged 15 points, four assists and five rebounds per game. In his junior year and final season at Detroit, McCallum increased his scoring average to 19 points per game.Following his Junior season McCallum decided to turn pro and entered the 2013 NBA draft.
Entering the draft, McCallum was regarded as a well-rounded point guard but someone who did not excel in any category. His lack of long-term potential was also one of his major weaknesses. McCallum’s biggest weakness is his lack of a jump shot and shooting range, as he shot only 30 percent from behind the arc in his three years in college.
As a result of said weaknesses, McCallum slipped to the second round in the 2013 draft. The Kings happily selected him with the sixth pick in the second round. McCallum joined a team stacked at the backcourt and already had three point guards on the roster. It appeared that McCallum would not see much playing time in his rookie deal as he would likely be the third or fourth point guard on the roster. However, the competition quickly thinned as Jimmer Ferdette was cut and Grievis Vasquez was traded. McCallum’s minutes drastically increased as te season went on and even started 10 games in Thomas’ absence. In those 10 games McCallum averaged 14 points and seven assists per game.
This production, while a small sample size, is very impressive for a rookie guard. He continued this high level of play into this years Summer League as he averaged 12 points, five assists and five rebounds per game in seven starts. He also led the Kings team to the Summer League Championship where he scored 29 points to lead the Kings to victory. In addition to his strong performances it is clear to see the improvements McCallum has made.
Why He Will Breakout
Believe it or not McCallum is in a great position to succeed. When the season began last year he was stuck behind a number of talented guards on the roster. This year he is the clear backup behind new comer Darren Collison. Collison is a journeyman point guard and is now playing for his fifth team in six years. He is a more than capable backup point guard but has been unable to hold down a starting gig. He also holds career averages of 12 points and five assists, very modest numbers from someone who is expected to lead the Kings out of the Western Conference basement.
Much like Thomas three years ago, McCallum enters the season as the expected backup but will have every opportunity to seize the starting job. At 27 years old Collison is clearly at his peak, however, McCallum has shown the potential to be a significant contributor when give ample playing time. If the Kings struggle, and Collison remains average, the coaching staff might be inclined to move on to the young, more exciting player. And even if McCallum fails to seize the starting job, he should always be one of the first players off the Kings bench. He might not become the star the Isaiah Thomas is, but he will emerge as a key contributor for the Kings by the season’s end.