Position: Shooting Guard
Expected draft position: Top 3
College career: Every year in the draft, there's that one prospect that we commiserate for having the "feel good story" of the season. Last year it was Thomas Robinson. Jimmy Butler was that guy in 2011.
In 2013, it's Ben McLemore. We commonly associate these prospects' past with a menacing nature and tireless motor, but seldom do you see a player tip-toeing around your program, apprehensive about making a single misstep that would provoke one of the upperclassmen. There are myriad prospects that were cultivated to deal with the limelight, and a select few who went home every day of their high school lives wondering when their next meal was going to be. Ben McLemore is your classic late bloomer, a relative unknown up until his senior year of high school who wasn't afforded the luxury of a renowned AAU team until he was a mere upper classmen in high school.
McLemore redshirted his freshman year at Kansas after being deemed academically ineligible by the school. He came in ready from both a physical and mental standpoint, gaining a good understanding of Coach Bill Self's complex hi-low system, and ready to take on the perils of a full college season. McLemore immediately established himself as the main scoring threat of the Jayhawks offense. He didn't exactly light the world on fire early on with his proficient three-point shooting that we're all accustomed to seeing now, but he emerged as a staunch presence coming off screens that habitually stayed within the flow of the offense. This soon became a formality for the young guard, as all three of his 30-point performances this season came on 15 shot attempts or fewer.
However those pesky concerns about McLemore's reticence caught up with him as March rolled around, as he shot a dreadful 2-14 from the field in the first two rounds of the tournament, which wasn't much better than his 2-7 effort in the Big 12 Championship game against Kansas State. The tournament is just a small piece to the puzzle; it predominantly doesn't deviate from what we've seen all season. McLemore, to no one's dismay, didn't suddenly develop one on one skills, and as Kansas played the Sweet 16 game against Michigan, it should come to no one's wonderment that he shot himself out of his shooting slump to an 8-15, 20-point game.
Offense: McLemore is a shooter first and foremost and gets everything within the flow of the offense. He doesn't take many dribbles (understandably so), and doesn't force many jumpers or threes. 92 percent of his threes were assisted on, per hoop-math.com, which matches Bradley Beal's mark from his freshman season at Florida.
But unlike Beal, McLemore backed up his picture perfect form with great shooting percentages, hitting on 42 percent of his threes and amassing a 63 percent true shooting percentage. He has a great knack for curling around screens, keeping himself close to the screener in order to gain separation from his man while keeping himself squared to the basket. While he's a great stand-still shooter that shows off his textbook form, he has trouble keeping his release point at a consistent level when he's forced into putting the ball on the floor and pulling up.
His athleticism is off the charts as well, being the target of some shrewd set plays that get him alley oops off back screens. He's exceptionally quick, has a strong first step and shows off his explosiveness in transition. Yet his athleticism wasn't on full display this season, as his poor ball handling skills crippled him from doing much else. Just 31 percent of his offense came at the rim this season, an unusually low number for a player as explosive as McLemore, with more than half of those opportunities being assisted on. His inability to go left while attacking the rim, struggles with leading a fast-break and lack of hesitation/change of speed make it extremely difficult for him to operate in an isolation setting.
Defense: His physical attributes do not carry over to his defensive ability, as he's constantly caught out of place or ball watching and is slow to react. The potential is there, but he'll need to improve his motor and defensive intensity. His strong lateral quickness allows him to stay with the best guards in the country, and he does a fine job playing passing lanes.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Ben McLemore is the safest bet in the draft. His worst case scenario is still good for a rotational "3 and D" player, a valuable commodity for any team. There are concerns over his lack of an isolation game, but rookies typically aren't thrown into the fire like that right away. At only 20 years old, we sometimes forget he hasn't been exposed to these highly sophisticated offenses in the past, a training regimen or even a proper diet. The more exposure he gets, the more comfortable he'll be under the spotlight and the more confidence he'll emit as a primary option. The sky is truly the limit for the young guard out of St. Louis.
The annual "best player available over best fit" palaver has inevitably induced Wizards fans into pondering over Ben McLemore as a potential target. The league as a whole has suppressed this argument a good deal with its preponderance over smallball lineups, but I have personally subscribed to the notion of accruing talent through the draft while filling needs through free agency. If you're in a position to obtain a top young talent on a rookie-based salary, your team needs should take a backseat.
There will indubitably be exceptions to this notion. For example, I wouldn't take McLemore ahead of Otto Porter, knowing that the drop off in production and potential is minuscule. But in any case, inheriting another great shooter should never be looked down on, especially one that could impact your playoff deprived team immediately and carries an abundance of untapped potential.
McLemore can play the 3 in spurts (asking more would be inane), and would be a great spell to Bradley Beal should Beal develop as a pick and roll ball handler. Dispersing minutes to what would be a crowded backcourt would require a savvy game-plan (not exactly a strong suit from a year ago), and receiving extended minutes would go a long way for a prospect of McLemore's nature. However, should the Wizards have the opportunity, it would do this team some good to deviate from the traditional line of team building and go toward a more cutting edge approach to draft McLemore.