NBA Draft 2013: Kansas’ Ben McLemore Player Profile

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This is the first in a series of stories that will break down the top prospects for the 2013 NBA Draft. Today, we examine:

The Kansas Jayhawks logo. Photo Credit: Sportslogos.net

Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas, Freshman, 6’5″, 185 lbs

2012-13 Collegiate Stats: (all stats courtesy of ESPN.com)

16.5 points, 50% field goals, 42% 3-pointers, 87% free throws, 5.4 rebounds, 2.1assists, 1.2 steals, 1.9 turnovers

The Skinny:

Ben McLemore came to Kansas in 2011 ranked 49th in ESPN’s Top 100 college basketball recruits. McLemore was forced to sit out his first year due to academic ineligibility issues, making 2012-13  his freshman season.

In his first season in Lawrence, McLemore has made a star out of himself, keeping Kansas ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season while leading the team in scoring. Despite a three-game losing streak to begin February (at home to Oklahoma State, at TCU and at Oklahoma), McLemore has Kansas in line to take home the Big 12 regular season championship and a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Strengths:

McLemore’s best assets to an NBA team will be his ability to play off the ball. His natural NBA position is the 2-guard, meaning he won’t have control of the ball very often. McLemore has the uncanny ability to make crisp cuts off screens to free himself for open jump shots. Shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc is a very respectable number in college basketball, something McLemore has proven he can do this season. If he’s open, he’s not afraid to shoot the ball, showing great confidence in his stroke.

Aside from his half-court presence, McLemore’s speed and explosiveness in transition is something most general managers will fall in love with. The ability to finish on the break is a huge plus for McLemore, who has displayed his fair share of outstanding dunking ability this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, McLemore has shown that he is not afraid to make his opponent frustrated with active hands and quick feet. While McLemore’s average of just more than one steal per game is nice, it is his ability to stay in front of his opponent and rattle the offense that will elevate his game at the next level. Defensive stinginess is an underrated quality in the draft and McLemore has just that.

Weaknesses:

One of the knocks on McLemore right now is that he is just a freshman. His near 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is a little troubling, but considering his dominant role in the Jayhawk offense, NBA teams won’t look too far into this statistic. Ben doesn’t have to be a distributor in college, so learning to work with his teammates will come with time in the NBA.

His ball handling could use some work as well. While he can create off the dribble in one-on-one situations, McLemore appears to tense up whenever a second defender is nearby. For example, on pick-and-roll situations where the pick defender rides McLemore along the perimeter, he shies away from contact to draw the foul. This could be a problem at the next level, but that also comes with confidence. Confidence is certainly not a problem right now and McLemore will gain more of it once he gets his feet wet playing with the big boys.

Ben McLemore’s tendency to shy away from the spotlight is also startling. In most cases, it’s not that he isn’t making shots when Kansas needed them, he just isn’t taking them. In order to be a star player, something many feel McLemore can become in the NBA, you need to take charge of the offense and insert yourself  into key situations. McLemore doesn’t necessarily do this in college, but, again, this can be learned with some more experience.

Highlight Game:

March 2 vs. West Virginia (W 91-65) 36 points, 12-15 FG, 5-6 3FG

Here’s a prime example to how great Ben McLemore can play. It’s not the first time he’s dropped more than 30 points in a game and West Virginia isn’t the most formidable of foes, but missing only three shots while taking 15 is rather remarkable.

Nailing five 3s while also going 7-for-9 at the free throw line allowed McLemore to show those who have doubted him this season. Again, considering the opponent and margin of victory, this game could be written off, but it shouldn’t be. A dominating performance while commanding the ball was exactly what McLemore needed against an inferior opponent in West Virginia. He did more than show up; he took over.

Lowlight Game:

Feb. 25 at Iowa State (W 108-96 OT) 7 points, 2-6 FG, 0-1 3FG

It would be easy to look at Kansas’ game at TCU to find flaws with the team. However, the road win against Iowa State is what really stood out to most of McLemore’s critics so far this season. As was stated earlier, it’s not always so much that McLemore doesn’t hit his shots, he just sometimes doesn’t take enough of them.

It’s hard to knock a guy for not taking shots, but that’s exactly what could have NBA general managers reluctant on McLemore in the pros right now. Teams don’t want to draft a guy who will disappear when their team needs him to take the shot or make the play to decide a game. Six shots is not enough for a prolific scorer such as McLemore. While Kansas may have escaped that game with a victory (which is still debatable with the block-charge call/non-call at the end of regulation) it very well could have ended poorly for the Jayhawks because of their leading scorer’s unwillingness to pull the trigger.

Potential landing spots:

Most of the major NBA mock drafts have McLemore being selected within the first five selections. Considering his tremendous scoring ability and potential for growth while in the league, this is far from a stretch. McLemore has “top overall selection” written all over him, especially with the devastating knee injury to Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel. He won’t be on the draft board very long when it comes time to start selecting in June.

Teams That Make Sense:

Phoenix Suns: Phoenix has a nice stable of role players on their roster, but they don’t have a go-to player when they need a basket or someone to stand out.

A lineup consisting of Goran Dragic, McLemore, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat could be a nice roster to build around for the future. The Suns are currently in place to receive somewhere along the seventh selection of the draft, meaning it wouldn’t be likely McLemore would still be available. However, McLemore could be exactly what they need to solidfy their young team.

Charlotte Bobcats: The one team in the NBA that needs help at nearly every position is the Charlotte Bobcats. Certainly the Bobcats have Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to build around towards the future, but they also have Gerald Henderson playing out of position at shooting guard and minimal depth in the post.

If the Bobcats decide to use their first selection on a guard (Bobcats own two first-round picks, the second being a top-12 protected pick from the Portland Trail Blazers), McLemore would be the man they’d love to have. Drafting McLemore would allow Henderson to come off the bench athis more natural small forward position.

Overall Synopsis:

Kansas has a great player in McLemore right now and it is very unlikely he sticks around after this year. McLemore is a surefire top-five selection in the 2013 NBA Draft and doesn’t have to worry about his prospects at the next level. Most of McLemore’s weaknesses are those that can be solved with some more playing time and experience, all of which he will get a great deal of in the NBA. He’s a bonafide 2-guard ready to help any team that drafts him. It will be increasingly hard to look past McLemore come June for general managers looking for a sharpshooter with superstar potential.

Feel free to follow me on the Twitter machine for more NBA Draft insight and opinions ( @NathanGiese )