After one fantastic season at Kansas, Ben McLemore’s combination of size, shooting, and athleticism earned him comparisons to Ray Allen. Some experts speculated that he should be the No. 1 pick in the famously weak 2013 draft. He went seventh to the Kings—three spots ahead of C.J. McCollum—and never lived up to expectations.
The 24-year-old played four seasons in Sacramento and averaged double-digit points once. He posted a single-digit PER three times and never managed to eclipse the 44 percent mark from the field.
All this added up to Sacramento declining to extend McLemore a qualifying offer when his rookie deal expired this summer. But just because Sacto gave up on the former Jayhawk doesn’t mean Memphis can’t take a flyer on him.
The Grizz were able to sign McLemore to a reasonable two-year, $11 million contract while he attempts to change his narrative.
2016-17 Season In Review
McLemore’s role decreased dramatically under new Kings head coach Dave Joerger in 2016-17. He was buried deep on the shooting guard depth chart behind Aaron Afflalo, Buddy Hield, and Garrett Temple.
According to Basketball-Reference, the former star prospect finished 10th on the team in total minutes played. McLemore appeared in only 61 games last season and averaged just over 8 points and less than one assist per game. He only played 30 or more minutes six times.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard did convert his threes at a career-high 38.2 percent clip; making 65 of 170 attempts.
Memphis is thin at shooting guard after the departures of Tony Allen and Vince Carter in free agency. Minutes will be available.
If McLemore plays well, he could end up being the starter. He’ll be competing with Wayne Selden Jr. and Tyreke Evans for the position. So yeah, the competition isn't too stiff.
Selden—an undrafted rookie last season—only appeared in 14 games with Memphis and New Orleans, and Evans’ injury history makes it unlikely he’ll be healthy enough to be real competition.
A healthy Evans is the best all-around player of the trio and has the most experience. He was also briefly teammates with McLemore in Sacramento last season. Based on reputation, Evans is likely to start at the two. McLemore will be likely be one of the Grizzlies’ top players off the bench.
2017-18 Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario for McLemore is that he ends up the starter throughout the season. He shuts the haters up, has a breakout season with his new team, and finally eclipses the 15 points per game mark.
He also shoots 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-point line on a good sample size. The former Jayhawk finally gets his act together on defense by at least producing at a below average level on that end of the court.
In this NBA, that’s saying something.
2017-18 Worst Case Scenario
The worst case scenario is more of the same for McLemore. His defense makes him such a liability that he can’t stay in David Fizdale’s rotation. Nothing but inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball doesn’t compensate for that poor defensive effort.
McLemore could be getting multiple DNP-CD. However, given that he’s a brand new free agent this outcome is doubtful. Memphis will give their new swingman a chance to succeed.
Memphis is hoping to still be able to make a playoff push, and McLemore has no idea what it’s like to be a part of a squad that’s doing that. His teams in Sacramento went 122-206. I suppose his expectations depend on how the team performs.
The Western Conference will be even more competitive this season. Following the loss of Carter, Allen, and Zach Randolph the Grizzlies may not be able to keep up. If Memphis is in the thick of a playoff race, they may want a player more experience than McLemore in their rotation.
But if the more likely outcome occurs—Memphis is out of the playoff race—then McLemore could see significant time.