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Rockets 2021 player previews: Ben McLemore

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A Very Morey Sharpshooter

Indiana Pacers v Houston Rockets
Light it up, Ben.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Ben McLemore came into the NBA as the seventh pick in the notoriously awful 2013 NBA draft. (Don’t believe me? Here: https://www.basketball-reference.com/draft/NBA_2013.html )

Even so, getting picked by the Sacramento Kings is a tough way to start. Getting picked to save a franchise that can’t save itself is tough. Occasionally a miserable franchise gets a transcendent, no-brainer, pick like Lebron James. Usually they pick a raw Ben McLemore, and don’t know how to use him, because they’re the sort of team that is picking in the top 10 constantly for a reason.

Being seen as a franchise player, when you’re a 6’3” SG, and definitely NOT a PG is tough. Now add in the fact that McLemore was a raw talent on a Kansas Jayhawks team that could use his explosive scoring, and athleticism, without needing him for much else. McLemore could either cook a college player off the triple threat, or simply splash a shot in his face. The highlight videos looked great. Not in the NBA.

The Kings needed him to be The King. He wasn’t. He’s a 6’3” SG, without Jason Terry’s tough defense and occasional ability to be a PG if you really needed him to pretend that for you.

So McLemore struggled and was considered a disappointment for what he couldn’t do (play PG, defend) instead of being asked to do what he was good at doing (nailing three-point shots, occasionally driving the basket). For the next few years, as the NBA changed to accommodate more (and more and more) three-point shooting, McLemore drifted around, the contracts and opportunities growing ever smaller. A trip to Memphis, a trip back to Sacramento. And though McLemore always shot it well, there wasn’t a lot of buzz about him, the odor of a number seven pick slot gone bad still clinging to him.

Enter two men: the NBA’s great bottom fisher, Daryl Morey, and The Man Who Gets Shooters Paid, Mike D’Antoni. McLemore was signed to a two year minimum deal (second one a team option) with the Rockets. He blossomed in a role as the NBA’s version of a designated hitter. When McLemore came on the court he had One Job: shoot the ball. Don’t wait. Don’t try to make plays. Don’t think. Shoot. The. Ball.

Shoot it he did. Last year McLemore averaged 40 percent from three-point range on 6.5 attempts per game. His previous high in attempts was 4.8, way back in 2014-15. After that point, Ben averaged around 2.8 per game. Not with the small ball Rockets. Despite more than doubling his three-point volume, his fine shooting ways stayed solid. He has a gorgeous shot, and it tends to stay consistent. McLemore’s TS% was 62 percent in 19-20, a fine number for a jump shooter.

We can expect a similar role this year, before McLemore likely becomes too pricey for the Rockets in the next season. Coach Stephen Silas had good success with Seth Curry in Dallas, a player very similar to McLemore, lacking his athleticism, but an even better shooter.

With a slightly more fluid system, we might see McLemore play even better, with a few more options on his platter, while the main course remains his calling card, shooting.

Dallas just traded the very similar Seth Curry to Daryl Morey’s 76ers. If the Rockets could manage to sign McLemore to a similar deal, a similar sort of trade might be made. Shooting is that prized now. At age 27, people are finally starting to see why a team might pick Ben McLemore at number seven.

Poll

Can the Rocket re-sign McLemore

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    If all goes well.
    (105 votes)
  • 5%
    If all goes very poorly.
    (9 votes)
  • 22%
    Who knows, we’re still talking about practice. Practice.
    (36 votes)
  • 7%
    Yes, to trade him to Dallas.
    (13 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now