Draft retrospective: Don’t lose faith in Ben McLemore, suggests long-time NBA scout

Ben McLemore questions a call against him  while playing the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

One of the NBA’s most renowned experts in scouting says they’re still hope for Ben McLemore. Ryan Blake, the league’s senior director of scouting operations, thinks that the 21-year-old shooting guard still has value despite a subpar rookie year.

McLemore averaged 11.9 points per 36 minutes in his first season in the league. However, he struggled mightily with his stroke, shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point distance. He also posted a poor true-shooting percentage of 48.5 percent.

Blake, however, believes that McLemore can make major strides moving forward, so long as he puts in the work. The 21-year-old guard showed progress following the All-Star Break, averaging more points per game (10.9 to 7.6) and posting a higher true-shooting percentage (50.6 to 47.4) than the season’s first half.

“If you get a player that can make an impact, that is learning, that is progressing after the All-Star Break (and) you make that assessment – that’s good,” Blake said to Cowbell Kingdom recently. “If he becomes better, that’s a bonus.”

The long-time NBA scout suggests that this summer will be crucial for McLemore’s development and that how the Kings shooting guard approaches Summer League will be an indicator of his future success. Last year, the Kings handed the reigns to their Las Vegas roster over to the rookie and he struggled. With one year of NBA experience under his belt, McLemore will likely play with a comfort and confidence he didn’t have in hand last July.

Blake points out that players don’t stop developing regardless whether they’re freshmen or seniors coming into the NBA. He points to Steve Nash, who didn’t become an elite superstar until his ninth season in the NBA, as a prime example of someone who developed late into his career. Nash came into the league as a 22-year-old rookie after four years of college at Santa Clara University.

Blake’s point: if there’s hope for someone like Nash, who many never projected to become a two-time MVP, the jury’s still out on who and what McLemore can become.

“I think inside where they have more knowledge on his progression, he’s still a player that’s coveted and he’s not someone to just wipe away,” Blake said of McLemore.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.