Sheldon McClellan wasn’t on anyone’s radar coming into preseason. Of the Wizards’ players on non-guaranteed deals (contracts that can be terminated at any point), Jarrell Eddie seemed to be the most likely to make the final roster with Danuel House being a somewhat distant second, based on their performance in Summer League. Things have changed in a hurry.
In the Wizards’ second preseason game, they beat the 76ers in double overtime in what was either the most thrilling or excruciating NBA preseason contest so far, depending on how you feel about the concept of three and a half hour exhibition games. Joel Embiid’s defective water bottle almost stole the show, but Sheldon McClellan proved to be a shining light on an otherwise dark and forgetful evening.
McClellan finished with 20 points on 6-11 shooting off the bench in 32 minutes. The University of Miami product showed off his versatile offensive game, scoring in a multitude of ways.
As seen above, McClellan was pushing the ball in transition and showing off his elite athleticism with some impressive finishes in the paint, and he also got a chance to show off his strong midrange game. He hit multiple jumpers inside the arc off the dribble, and was impressive in the way that he would attack defenders on their closeouts and pull-up quickly to prevent his opponent from contesting his shot.
This is what McClellan was known for at the University of Miami. He was one of the most efficient scorers in the country last season and was rewarded with second team All-ACC honors for his contributions to the Hurricanes. McClellan scored over 16 points a game while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.
McClellan finished top five in the ACC in true shooting percentage, offensive rating, and win shares. What made his game particularly impressive is that he was able to be effective without a high usage rate. He only used 22.4 percent of Miami’s possessions when he was on the floor. That’s not just a low rate for elite players, it wasn’t even the highest on the team. He only had the fourth-highest usage rate at Miami last season.
That low usage rate is why McClellan has a chance to be so valuable for the Wizards. He has proven that he can be a consistent offensive threat without dominating the ball. This is an incredibly rare skill for rookies, but, then again, McClellan isn’t your typical teenage, NBA project seeing as how he played his final collegiate season as a fifth-year senior and will turn 24 this December.
The Wizards took some major steps during the offseason towards shoring up some of their gaping roster holes, most notably at point guard and with their big men. There is still, however, room for a player to sneak into the shooting guard rotation, or at least provide some desperately needed injury insurance for Bradley Beal. This is where McClellan fits in.
As of right now, Marcus Thornton is the Wizards backup shooting guard. While Thornton has proven to be an NBA-caliber scorer in the past, he is shooting under 40 percent from the field in his last three seasons. Early in the preseason, it looks like Tomas Satoransky could get some time in this spot as well, but it is still a very small sample size to assume he could play a lot of minutes at shooting guard considering his natural position is point guard.
Sheldon McClellan won’t start for the Wizards and, honestly, it’s tough to imagine him seeing the floor much barring any injuries. But as of right now, McClellan looks to be the favorite among the Wizards’ non-guaranteed players to make the final squad. If he continues to play the way he did against the 76ers, he should fit nicely into one of the Wizards’ last open roster spots.