Ben McLemore: It’s Sink Or Swim Time For The Young King


Sacramento Kings fans have a couple of reasons to be excited about the future of basketball in Sactown. They have DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, one of the best centers in the NBA (and one of the best nicknames, too). They have the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, one of the deepest in recent memory.

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As with most teams, the Kings also have some question marks surrounding the team. Luckily for fans of the franchise, there is no question that the team will remain in Sacramento for years to come. Who will be playing in Sacramento–outside of Boogie and their draft pick, of course–is more up in the air.

Ben McLemore is one of my favorite players on the Kings roster. His crazy athleticism and dunking ability matched with an improving jump shot make him a potentially dynamic scorer, and he brings a lot of energy to the team. But despite doing fairly well on the eye test, McLemore has not been a consistently good player for Sacramento, not yet at least.

McLemore averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season. Those numbers definitely aren’t anything to write home about, considering McLemore didn’t miss a start and played more than 32 minutes per game.

The low points per game is somewhat acceptable, but it’s disheartening to see McLemore not have more of an impact on the rest of the game. 2.9 rebounds isn’t bad for a guard, but the under two assists per game is troublesome. As proven by the now-NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, ball movement is pretty important.

The more passers on an offense, the more efficient that team will be because they can get more good looks for their scorers. McLemore has not been a good shot creator for himself or his teammates thus far in his career, and that’s something that needs to change if Mac wants to retain his starting position.

McLemore’s defense has been suspect as well. He averaged just 0.9 steals and 0.2 blocks last season, and his defensive rating (an advanced statistic that determines how many points a player gives up per 100 possessions) was 112, the same as last year, meaning he hasn’t improved much at all defensively.

There has been some improvement in McLemore’s game, however. His offensive efficiency has improved essentially across the board. From just a quick look at his per 36 minutes stats from his rookie and sophomore seasons it’s easy to see McLemore’s offensive game has gotten better.


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McLemore’s field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, assists per 36, steals per 36, personal fouls per 36 and points per 36 all went up last season. Only his rebounds per 36 and turnovers per 36 took steps back. The turnover bit is expected, when a player’s offensive role grows there are usually some growing pains to go with that increased scoring burden.

The rather large jumps in Mac’s shooting percentages is definitely the most promising sign of his future. If he can start to take more shots and maintain or even improve those numbers, I think he could be the starter Sacramento needs to move forward and make their own title run.

But his passing needs to improve. His assists per game and also his assist ratio speak volumes to that. Ben McLemore finished 66th in assist ratio–not for all players, but just amongst NBA shooting guards. There were 65 shooting guards that were better passers than McLemore this season: one of whom was teammate Nik Stauskas.

Stauskas is an interesting player. He came into the Association billed as a three-point threat, but shot just 32 percent from deep his rookie season. A lot of his numbers mirror McLemore’s rookie numbers, so it’ll be interesting to see which of them can improve faster and snatch the starting shooting guard role going forward.

McLemore hasn’t missed a game in his career yet and has starting experience, so look for Ben to get the nod early at the 2. I wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see a move made if he doesn’t show signs of growing into a more complete player, however.

The Kings have shown they’re serious about becoming a good team, and if they feel Stauskas or another guard gives them a better chance at winning games than Ben McLemore does they will go out and make a move. He could even find himself in hot water after the draft or free agency, depending on who Vlade Divac goes after.

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