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Ben McLemore: A risk worth taking

Ben McLemore’s upside and youth are two major factors in to why this Memphis signing makes sense.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday night news broke with the Memphis Grizzlies signing old Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore to a 2-year, 10.7-million-dollar deal. As always, Memphis Twitter had a lot to say about this signing right out of the gates. The reactions were mixed on whether or not this was the right move for the team. GBB’s Matt Hrdlicka wrote a scathing review of this signing which highlighted the consequences of McLemore.

As Hrdlicka brought up solid points in his article, I do not agree with his negative assessment of this signing.

When this Woj Bomb lit up my Twitter feed, I instantaneously thought two things: 1. key that it is a short deal and 2. Grizzlies are looking to go younger. A high ceiling guy that needed a change of scenery to hopefully start a positive, new chapter of his career.

Here’s what we know about him so far:

Ben McLemore is a 24-year-old shooting guard who was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Sacramento Kings. He has played with the Kings all four years of his career, averaging 9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Clearly, these numbers are nothing impressive on the face, but hear me out. As an obvious score first guard, his shooting percentage is 41.7% from the field and 35.2% from three. Right now, he is a one-dimensional wing, but it is possible he can and will mold into a different player once the team expectations are at a higher level. Plus, he is a three-point specialist - the Grizzlies can always use a consistent one of those.

For him as a player, one of the biggest factors that worked against him is the situation he has been in for his entire career to this point. McLemore has been cooped up in a tumultuous situation in Sacramento, having only his second year to shine which he started in all 82 games. He has never played with a team that wasn’t in constant chaos. His point guards have been Ray McCallum, pre-superstar Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, and Rajon “I Don’t Give a damn, I’m on the Kings” Rondo. None of these names even come close to Mike Conley and the impact he has in raising up his teammates. For all the gripe about McLemore as a player, a strong, stable franchise will bring him to another level and help reach his potential of a high ceiling.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

What about the Grizzlies’ part in all of this? The biggest criticism of this acquisition is the price of the 2 years for $10.7 million agred upon deal cuts into the Grizzlies mid-level exception. Memphis had an 8.4-million-dollar exception for this offseason to use, but after this signing, it is cut to only 3.3 million which will sufficiently restrict the next move (if there is one) outside of resigning players.

While a very fair point to make, my counter to that is who else would be another dominant player out there that would move the needle for 8 million a year. Yes, that may be a pessimistic way of looking at things, but the facts are the Western Conference is harder than ever. Overpaying slightly on McLemore can be a risk that the Grizzlies can live with at only 24 years old. I would say it is a better move than signing an aging veteran who has hit his ceiling.

The McLemore move is just another sign from a Grizzlies organization that keeps people guessing on a possible youth movement rebuild in the future. This two-year deal is very important to any rebuild. It gives Memphis flexibility for roster construction down the road as the team is not constrained by a long-term deal.

Also, the Grizzlies will now have the big decision on which guys to focus on resigning. The rumor mill has been awfully quiet toward JaMychal Green, so it may look to be good news if Memphis had any hope of bringing him back. Like Hrdlicka said as well, I believe Tony Allen is gone whether Memphis is mentally ok with it or not.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The final piece lies with Vince Carter or Zach Randolph. It will probably be an either-or type deal with these two because of the tight budget with one of them taking a slight pay cut to play again with the team. However, retaining JaM (I think is most important) and ZBo while bringing in a young guard in McLemore isn’t such a bad offseason for the Memphis Grizzlies.

All in all, this is just a solid signing that is a low risk, high reward type move. Personally, I do not think the outrage is warranted. It will not move the needle for years to come, but it gives the team a two-year window to see if McLemore can fit and excel in a new system. It is a 5 million per year deal that won’t break the bank either way. The contract will end with a year remaining on the Chandler Parsons deal, so by then the Grizzlies will hopefully know which direction they are headed in for the future.

Even if the price paid is higher than some of the critics would like, Ben McLemore is worth the short-term risk because of the upside he can bring with a new system and new franchise culture.

Stats Per Basketball Reference