Ben McLemore has the skill set to be a great scorer in the NBA. His best weapon is his picture-perfect jump shot. He has both a quick release and deep range. Combine those with his 42-inch vertical leap, and you get a player who can get a great look from nearly anywhere on the court. No matter the situation, McLemore can find a window for his jumper, even if that window opens and closes quickly. This year at Kansas, he shot 42 percent from downtown on nearly five attempts per game.
When driving to the basket, his agility and explosive first step make it very difficult for defenders to stay in front of him. Despite attempting so many threes, McLemore still shot nearly 50 percent from the field so he is very efficient inside the arc as well. Much of those attempts came in transition. He’s very fast and very smooth in the open court. He finishes well on the run and isn’t afraid to be unselfish and find open teammates on the break.
Though he stands just under 6’5” in shoes, McLemore still averaged better than five rebounds per game, indicating he uses his leaping ability and quickness to his advantage on the boards. As a defender he has great potential because of his length, quickness and desire. He fights over picks willingly and could be an excellent on-ball defender in the pick-and-roll. He doesn’t always translate his potential to results on the defensive end, but under the right NBA coach, he could be a very good perimeter defender.
McLemore’s biggest flaws are the same as most 20-year-old prospects. He needs to add muscle and maturity. He’s a bit undersized for an NBA shooting guard, but he can certainly make up for that by getting stronger and using his athleticism. From a maturity standpoint, scouts have been pleasantly surprised by his honesty in interviews, though that honesty may end up costing him some money. Most scouts are of the opinion that he does not yet have the killer instinct necessary to be an elite scorer in the NBA. Whether or not he can develop that is anyone’s guess, but unlike his shooting guard counterpart Victor Oladipo, McLemore is not cranked up to 11 every minute he is on the court.
Both offensively and defensively, McLemore can disappear and seem uninterested for long stretches of games. This was most evident in Kansas’ second round NCAA Tournament matchup with North Carolina. McLemore played 24 minutes and scored just two points. The NBA schedule is a tough grind and a top-5 pick will have to learn very quickly how to bring it every night. This apparent lack of motivation or passion is the biggest question surrounding McLemore.
Offensively, his deficiencies are mostly related to ball handling. He’s not a bad dribbler, but he’s not great either. He’s also not a great shooter off the dribble. This can make him a bit one-dimensional and make it easier for defenses to contain him.
Creating shots for himself is definitely not McLemore’s strength as he was used primarily as a spot up shooter and cutter at Kansas. He will certainly have to develop that part of his game and become adept at running pick-and-roll if he is to excel at the 2 spot in the NBA.
The final knock on McLemore is that he doesn’t draw fouls. The worst shots he takes are often short floaters he opts for instead of getting all the way to the hoop in traffic and drawing contact. With added strength and confidence, he may be able to better absorb contact and thus not be reticent of finishing at the hoop.
At one point not too long ago, McLemore was challenging Nerlens Noel for the projected No. 1 pick, and he was a shoe-in to be a top-5 pick. He was rated as a better prospect and projected as a higher in the draft than Oladipo. But thanks to bloggers like myself gushing about Oladipo since April, his stock has skyrocketed while demand for McLemore has cooled. Oladipo’s stock has risen because he has fewer question marks around him and should be able to contribute right away. McLemore has fallen because of the immaturity and lack of consistent aggression I talked about earlier. Pundits still believe McLemore has one of the best offensive skill sets in the draft, but teams have been burned by star prospects who didn’t have the mental makeup necessary to translate their games to the next level. And some teams have soured on him because he’s refused to work out against Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad. My feeling is that McLemore and Oladipo will flip flop in mock drafts right up until draft day, but they’ll both go in the top-5.
How would he fit with the Suns?
He’s a scorer with all-star potential. The Suns don’t have any players like him. If Phoenix selects him at No. 5, he’ll get a chance to play a significant role right away. It’s unclear whether that’s something McLemore is ready for, but he’ll definitely get a chance to work out the kinks and develop as a player nevertheless. Phoenix is firmly in the clutches of rebuilding, and I suspect that will provide him with a long leash.
McLemore would fit nicely in the Suns’ backcourt next to Goran Dragic. They both love to run in transition, and McLemore’s speed and agility could help him cover point guards who might be too quick for Goran. McLemore’s preference to be off the ball as a spotup shooter or cutter works perfectly with Dragic, who prefers to have the ball in his hands. If McLemore’s three-point accuracy translates to the NBA, he should provide more space for Goran to operate as help defenders won’t be able to sag into the key to keep Dragic from getting to the rim.
Defensively, he’s long, athletic, capable and willing. That’s all the Suns and new coach Jeff Hornacek can ask for at this point.
And 1 … A second-rounder to consider
Ryan Kelly of Duke is someone the Suns could consider with the 57th pick in the draft. Kelly spent much of his final season at Duke hobbled by injury. When he came back healthy however, he was spectacular, particularly in Duke’s win over then No. 5 Miami. Kelly had 36 points and hit 7-of-9 from downtown. Kelly isn’t much beyond a hard-working Dukie and a shooter, but NBA careers have been forged with less. He reminds me a lot of Ryan Anderson with his combination of range and size. There were games this year where he was the most important player for Coach K. That’s a solid pedigree for an NBA player even if his final season was marred by injury. Phoenix could take a flier on Kelly just to see if he could learn from/replace Channing Frye whose health is still up in the air. Kelly’s a floor spacer and big body with a Duke worth ethic. He’s got limited upside beyond a stretch 4, but for where the Suns would take him in the draft, that’s not bad value.
Another And 1
Agent David Falk told the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell that Georgetown small forward Otto Porter will not work out for teams outside the top-3. The Washington Wizards are likely a bet to take him if he falls to the third spot.