With the NBA draft inching closer, our friends at CSNChicago.com are analyzing prospects leading up to the draft on June 27 in New York.
Wednesday, they took a look at Ben McLemore, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Kansas:
The St. Louis native didn't have the easiest path to the draft between facing childhood adversity, lack of stability during his prep career and having to sit out his first year in college, but he made a major impact when he finally suited up for the Jayhawks. Combining a beautiful outside-shooting stroke and high-flying athleticism, McLemore certainly looks the part of a potential NBA superstar. But disappearing acts in big matchups, questions about his leadership ability and even concerns about his agent situation have prompted some observers to doubt whether he'll reach his ceiling.
A highly-anticipated newcomer, McLemore quickly lived up to and even exceeded expectations, making his presence felt with an early-season 22-point game in a win over Ohio State and never turning back. A 33-point outburst (on 10-for-12 shooting, including all six of the three-pointers he attempted) in an overtime win over Iowa State, a 30-point effort against rival Kansas State and a career-high 36-point performance against West Virginia were just some of his impressive games. McLemore led the Big 12 champions in scoring at 15.9 points per game, shooting a gaudy 42 percent from long range, 87 percent from the free-throw stripe and snagging 5.2 rebounds per game, en route to first-team all-conference and second-team All-American honors for Kansas, which lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to eventual finalist Michigan.
McLemore is a picture-perfect shooter, whether spotting up from mid range, pulling up off the dribble or simply elevating over defenders with his tremendous athleticism. An explosive finisher in traffic and in transition, he's also a solid rebounder for a perimeter player and has the tools to be an outstanding defender, possessing a solid frame and length, all contributing to making him a prototypical NBA shooting guard. Unselfish to a fault, McLemore is a team-first player capable of playing within the system, in addition to making plays with his individual talent.
For most players, selflessness is praised, but due to McLemore's scoring ability, the trait is perceived as a negative, as his skill set dictates that he should consistently make more of an impact on the game, as evidenced by his late-season struggles, in which he wasn't much of a factor and Kansas suffered. Aside from offensive assertiveness, other areas of improvement include polishing his ballhandling skills to become a better manufacturer of shots and a focus to apply his athleticism on the defensive end. He also possesses just average size for his position and is not viewed as a natural leader.
Arguably the lone player in the draft currently regarded as eventually being able to put up statistics at an All-Star level, McLemore is definitely a lottery pick, but while there was talk of him possibly being tabbed as the top overall selection, reports of subpar pre-draft workouts now have him potentially sliding Thursday night. If he enters a situation with a playmaking point guard alongside him in the backcourt and an established primary scorer, McLemore will have less pressure to emerge as a star early in his career and will benefit in the long run. Either way, he has the tools to not only be a long-term starter at shooting guard, but due to his athleticism, valuable ability to stretch the floor and defensive potential, an upper-echelon player at the position.