In the shadow of James Harden’s 60-point performance Saturday night, Ben McLemore quietly scored a season-high 24 points and pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds.
With Danuel House Jr. and Eric Gordon out early in the season, McLemore has been granted the opportunity to start alongside P.J. Tucker on the wing.
To begin the season, McLemore’s role appeared uncertain. He had a partially guaranteed deal (which became guaranteed as of Sunday) and was possibly on his last NBA contract if things did not work out in Houston.
But things have more than just worked out for McLemore. So much so that we are posing this question in December: Should McLemore remain the starter once Gordon/House return?
Gordon is still not expected to return until Christmas time, while House is still nursing an illness that will keep him out for at least one more game.
This season, McLemore is averaging respectable numbers. They are not eye-opening, but his 8.2 points per game is his highest average since his sophomore season in 2014-15.
However, his numbers in the starting lineup are exponentially better compared to his numbers as a reserve.
As a reserve, McLemore shoots below 30 percent from the field. But in the starting lineup, that number jumps to 47.5 percent.
His scoring numbers drastically improve as well, going from 4.9 points per game to 17.4.
The biggest metric that supports this argument is the team’s offensive rating, which improves from an 89 to 128, a 39-point increase.
It is also important to note that the Rockets are 4-1 when McLemore starts and 9-5 when he is a reserve.
If you keep McLemore in the starting lineup, it means that someone must move to the bench. And the likeliest option to go to the bench is Danuel House.
House has started all but one of the games he has played this season, so there is not much of a metric to compare McLemore to. However, House has proven to be more of a creator on offense than McLemore.
The reason McLemore thrives with the starting lineup is because James Harden and Russell Westbrook set him up with better opportunities than he does in the second unit. He is also able to gain a more succinct rhythm when he starts the game versus when he comes in the game late in the first quarter.
McLemore’s production strongly resembles what House was able to do a year ago when Mike D’Antoni planted his two-way wing into the starting lineup.
House saw his personal and team numbers spike when he was part of the starting five. House left the starting lineup last season because his NBA days expired and he returned to the team too late to move back into the starting lineup.
I would love to see the Rockets experiment with the starting lineup, because I believe the dropoff between House in the starting lineup and House on the bench is much smaller than McLemore in the starting lineup rather than the reserves.
When he’s in the starting lineup, McLemore is a lethal third option that allows Houston to blitz their opponents and jump into a huge lead. When he’s off the bench, he’s an ordinary guy.
When House is in the starting lineup, he is part of one of the most efficient lineups in the league. When he’s off the bench, well, we don’t know yet...
But we will only know if Ben McLemore remains in the starting lineup.
Should Ben McLemore remain in the starting lineup?
This poll is closed
Nope. House is the guy.