With the seventh pick in the NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings selected Ben McLemore. He is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of the University of Kansas, where he was a Second-Team All-American last season. Even though he was in college for two years, he was only allowed to play one season due to academic issues that deemed him ineligible to play. During his redshirt freshman year, McLemore averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists, and was named a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award.
The Kings are currently rebuilding, something that they’ve seemingly been doing since 2007. They have had a lot of lottery picks in recent years and have managed to waste most of them. They have spent early picks on busts like Jimmer Fredette, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Thomas Robinson. The two draft picks that have actually worked out are DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans, who they recently traded away as a restricted free agent.
The trade of Evans left a hole at the shooting guard spot, which McLemore should be able to seize from Marcus Thornton by the opening game of the season.
McLemore has an excellent jump shot and very solid range. He is athletic and will be used a lot coming off of screens to catch and shoot. He is very good at getting his feet set and shoulders squared while in motion, which will make him a very versatile scorer in a Rip Hamilton mold.
Defensively, he is athletic and quick enough to cover point guards, and he is long enough to cover shooting guards. While McLemore played some point guard in college, his game doesn’t translate to that position on an NBA level. He struggles to create shots for himself off the dribble, and has yet to develop a left-handed drive and finish.
Defenders will overplay his right hand and force him left, which will create a lot of turnovers and uncomfortable possessions for him if he’s forced to play the point. He also struggles with contact around the rim, which forces him to shoot more floaters rather than going up strong and drawing continuations and earning 3-point plays.
The starting lineup for the Kings should see Greivis Vasquez, McLemore, John Salmons, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. McLemore, by default, becomes the best shooter in the lineup and second-best player on the team. I expect him to have more opportunities to succeed than any rookie in the NBA this year. They aren’t expected to win many games, and all that they care about this season is growth from McLemore and Cousins and to try and get some production from fellow rookie Ray McCallum Jr.
Marcus Thornton can slide back into his role as a scorer off the bench, and Jimmer Fredette can invest in a lot of suits this year.
I think McLemore will average between 13 and 16 points per game, but will struggle with his assist to turnover ratio. It’s like that he will have very rough outings against physical defenders. He will put up a low shooting percentage in his rookie year, but it will steadily improve after the All-Star break when he becomes used to the speed of an NBA game. I predict him to make the First-Team All-NBA Rookie Team and get a few votes for the Rookie of the Year award.