Sacramento Kings: Career Crossroads for Ben McLemore


As a player entering his 3rd season in the NBA, some might not agree that Ben McLemore is at a crossroads in his NBA career.  However, considering how few players have historically made great strides developmentally beyond their 3rd year in the league, that statement is not far off base.  Aside from the rare Chauncey Billups’ of the world, most NBA players are on their way to their peak after their 3rd season in the league.

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After a rookie season that left many wondering if Ben McLemore was worth the 7th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, Ben made big strides in his sophomore campaign towards becoming a solid NBA starter on both sides of the ball.

The biggest improvement McLemore showed in his 2nd season was on defense. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus jumped from -2.68 in 13/14 to +0.71 last season which was good for 7th best in the NBA amongst shooting guards that played more than 28 mpg.  His defense did decline as last season went on, but that can likely be attributed to having to learn a new defense when coach George Karl came aboard.

Offensively, McLemore made progress as well.  His Offensive Real Plus-Minus went from -2.81 in 13/14 to 0.20 last season.  Also, Ben’s Offensive Win Share jumped from -0.1 to 1.7 win shares last season.  As you can see below, Ben’s field goal, 3-point, 2-point, free throw, and effective field goal percentages all increased last season over his rookie campaign.


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Considering Ben’s incredible work ethic, it is not far-fetched to expect Ben to make another leap forward as a player this season.  Ben will not be one of the top 2 scoring options on this team, but he will have the opportunity to step-up and show that he can be an effective stopper on defense and a consistent weapon on offense night in and night out.  The biggest hurdle for Ben this coming season will be getting on the floor.  Competition is nothing new to Ben having competed for playing time with Marcus Thornton as a rookie and with Nik Stauskas last season.

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This season, however, the Kings are loaded with backcourt players and it will be the first time Ben has had to compete with 2 quality veteran players like Darren Collison (who will be playing some 2-guard for Karl next season) and Marco Belinelli for minutes not to mention Caron Butler, Seth Curry and James Anderson.

I believe the starting 2-guard spot will go to either Collison or McLemore. Collison will also be the back-up point guard so even if he does start at the 2, I don’t expect him to play more than 10 minutes a game at shooting guard as I don’t expect the Kings to have Rajon Rondo playing more than 28-32 minutes a game at point guard.

If Marco Belinelli only plays 20 minutes a game, then Ben might only be seeing the floor about 26 minutes a game.  That would be almost 7 less minutes per game on the floor than he saw last season.

Ben McLemore already possesses elite athleticism and explosiveness.  Next season, the challenge will be for Ben to take those skills to the next level and become the effective and consistent NBA player most envisioned he would be when he was drafted, all the while, fighting the toughest competition he has faced in his career for minutes on the court.

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