Recap: When Ben McLemore signed with the Houston Rockets last July, no one knew what to expect from the sharp-shooter from St. Louis. The season prior, McLemore appeared in 19 games for the Sacramento Kings before he was waived to clear a roster spot for the NBA trade deadline.
In his first interview after he arrived in Houston, McLemore credited Mike D’Antoni as the main reason why he joined the Rockets,and felt he could thrive playing in his system. He went from 19 games averaging 8.3 minutes with the Kings in 2019, to 71 games played in a little over 20 minutes (22.8 MPG) as a member of the Rockets in 2020. His decision to sign a two-year partially guaranteed contract has helped McLemore revive what was surely a dying NBA career.
With Eric Gordon in-and-out of the lineup for the majority of the season due to a variety of injuries, McLemore played a vital role in picking up the slack. He averaged 10.1 points while shooting a team-high 40 percent from behind the arc.
A shortened player rotation inside the Orlando bubble limited McLemore’s production during the post-season. His playing time was drastically reduced from the regular season (11.8), and he failed to play over 10 minutes in four of his 11 playoff games.
Although there will be some significant changes to the Rockets organization this offseason, McLemore should be safe to reclaim his role as one of Houston’s most reliable role players heading into the 2021 season.
2021 Outlook: Outside of James Harden, McLemore may be the second-most disappointed player to see D’Antoni depart following Houston’s playoff elimination. After all, he did put the former NBA lottery pick (2013) in a situation to mend his career. But as long as Daryl Morey is in the position to hire the Rockets’ next head coach, McLemore should not have anything to worry about. Chances are, Morey will hire a coach whose philosophy is similar to that of D’Antoni.
There is a real likelihood McLemore will replicate the same success next season in Houston. However, his role will be based on the health of Gordon.
A notable factor that played into McLemore’s minutes during the post-season was the reemergence of the former Sixth Man of the Year winner (2017). With Gordon back in the lineup and also playing behind Danuel House, it became harder for McLemore to find his way onto the court.
If McLemore can improve on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, perhaps it will prevent him from playing second-fiddle to House and/or Gordon next season under the stewardship of a new head coach in Houston.