Ben McLemore has been named the NBA’s Western Conference Rookie of the Month. The league announced earlier today that the 20-year-old rookie earned the honor for games played in October/November.
“It’s mean a lot to win Rookie of the Month,” McLemore said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I worked really hard to get better each and every day, trying to improve my game.”
McLemore, selected seventh overall in last June’s draft, led all rookies in the Western Conference in scoring (9.1 points per game) and minutes (22.8 minutes per game). He shot 37.8 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.
McLemore scored in in double figures on six different occasions, including a career-high 19 points against the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 2 and Phoenix Suns on Nov. 19. He is currently tied with the Sixers’ Michael Carter-Williams for first among rookies with 21 three-pointers made in the first month of the season. Carter-Williams was also named Rookie of the Month, but in the Eastern Conference.
McLemore began the season on the bench, but claimed teammate Marcus Thornton’s place in the starting lineup following the Kings’ first six games. Since becoming a starter, McLemore has had his ups and downs, averaging just 8.8 points on 33.3-percent shooting from the field in 24.3 minutes per game.
Despite his struggles, head coach Michael Malone is hopeful that the award boosts McLemore’s confidence.
“I never want him getting down, whether he wins this award or not, because he’s working and doing the things that we’re asking,” Malone said. “And this year is about him growing up and learning all of this so next year, he doesn’t have to go through it again.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re almost throwing him to the wolves in a sense,” Malone added. “But that’s the only way he’s gonna learn and it’s going to speed up that learning curve quite a bit by going out there and starting and playing against some of the best two guards in the NBA every night.”
McLemore becomes the fifth rookie in Kings franchise history to win the honor. Isaiah Thomas was the last King to be named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games he played in March 2012.
James Ham also contributed to this post.