On Monday night the Sacramento Kings played in New Orleans against the Pelicans, and the starting backcourt for the Kings was Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore. Both players were taken in the 2013 draft, McLemore was taken in the first round, and McCallum was selected in the second round. The rookies were able to help the Kings beat the Pelicans 102-97 and both played well on both ends of the floor. McCallum, playing in place of the injured Isaiah Thomas, had a great game with 22 points and 10 assists. Furthermore, McCallum played 44 minutes and only committed one turnover while handling the ball most of the night. Then McLemore scored 14 points and added five rebounds from the shooting guard position. It was good to see these two guys playing well together, they are both very athletic which helped the Kings play better defense and hold the Pelicans less than 100 points. Seeing McLemore and McCallum playing well together in a Kings win makes me wonder if they could be the answer in the backcourt next season and beyond.
McLemore has struggled most of the season, that included being yanked from the starting lineup earlier in the season. However, over the last five games is has shot the ball much better, especially from downtown where he averaged 43 percent. During these five games he has hit at least one 3 and last Wednesday was 4-for-7 from behind the arc. The Kings need someone to step up and shoot the ball better from 3 as they are ranked 27th in the NBA at just less than 34 percent. Now McLemore is only shooting 41 percent overall from the field over those five games, but the 3-point shooting is extremely encouraging for Sacramento. With only eight games left this season the Kings are hoping that McLemore will continue to progress and be ready to be the starting shooting guard next season.
McCallum has been playing 45 minutes a game over the past four games as Thomas is recovering from an injured quad. It started off slow the first game, but each game McCallum has improved which is what you like to see from rookies. McCallum started the first game of the four with only 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, and then by game four he had 22 points on 9-of-19 from the field. In addition, he improved his assists from five the first game to 10 the last game with only one turnover against the Pelicans. McCallum, coming into this season, was thought of being a defensive stopper and is starting to live up to those thoughts. On Monday night he was able to hold Brian Roberts, the Pelicans starting point guard, to only nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. At this point McCallum has at least locked up the backup point guard position heading into next season; however, he could find himself starting depending on what the Kings do in the off-season with Thomas and the draft.
In conclusion both McLemore and McCallum have shown improvement in some areas during this season and depending on what happens during the off-season could find themselves as the starting backcourt. The only way that happens is if the Kings let Thomas walk and do not draft a guard in the upcoming NBA draft. But at this point it is a possibility as the Kings try to find DeMarcus Cousins some guard help.
Again as mentioned earlier the Kings were able to beat the Pelicans on Monday night, and the best player on the floor was Cousins. He was able to score 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and he hit 9-of-12 from the free throw line. Cousins added 14 rebounds as he helped the Kings out-rebound the Pelicans by 17. Then Cousins was able to block two shots and steal the ball once during the game. It is games like this that make him one of the best big men in the league, especially when he was able to do this against Anthony Davis, who leads the league in blocks. The issue is that Cousins is not always the best player on the floor, like in the game against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday when he scored 17 points and seven rebounds. The main reason he did not have a great game was his foul trouble against Dallas as he only played 28 minutes. Cousins has the talent to be a star in this league, however, he does not always keep everything under control both on and off the court. If the Kings are going to make it back to the playoffs it will have to be on the shoulders of Cousins, who has the ability to lead this team back there someday.