Ben McLemore Seeks a Fresh Start in Memphis


This summer, the Memphis Grizzlies signed Ben McLemore to a two-year, $10.7 million contract. The 24-year old wing had a sometimes promising, sometimes frustrating tenure in Sacramento during his first four years in the league. McLemore’s shooting – a skill he was lauded for heading into the 2013 Draft – steadily improved over four seasons. However, not much else of his game developed, with both his raw and advanced stats not progressing. The Kings decided to not extend a qualifying offer to McLemore, leading to him entering the free agent market.

In McLemore’s tenure with the Kings, the team failed to make any noise in a loaded Western Conference. With the addition of rookies Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox, the focus on McLemore’s progression would have taken a back seat had he returned to Sacramento.

The Memphis Grizzlies are in a period of change. With the departure of Zach Randolph and Vince Carter (and possibly Tony Allen,) Grit N’ Grind may be no more. Last season, David Fizdale tried to modernize the Grizzlies with the team looking to spread the floor and add some athleticism. The departure of Randolph, a Memphis stable for close to a decade, signified that change. The addition of McLemore, a promising but seemingly flawed player, also signified the changing Grizzlies.

On the surface, McLemore is what many GM’s would consider a gem. But McLemore’s lack of progress over four years caused the former lottery pick to lose his luster. His shooting form is textbook. He compliments that with explosive leaping ability. But outside of that, McLemore does not provide much else. He shot 31.3% and 24.0% from 3-10 feet and 10-16 feet in 2016-2017. His ability to attack off of the dribble – the semblance of an in-between game to compliment his shooting – was simply not there. Despite his decent shooting numbers, he tied with Tyreke Evans for the worst offensive rating on the Kings last season. On the defensive end, McLemore had numerous lapses, losing track of rotations or often a beat too late on closeouts.

At several instances, Ben McLemore simply showed a lack of focus on both ends of the court. That could be said throughout his four-year NBA career.

Despite the Kings’ lack of interest in bringing the young wing back into the fold, the addition by the Grizzlies is a step in the right direction for both player and franchise. The Memphis Grizzlies have stayed in the NBA Playoffs due to consistent veteran effort. The nucleus of Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley carried the Grizzlies for years. But that nucleus has barely made any noise in the Western Conference as of late, despite the team’s success. General Manager Chris Wallace may be looking to accomplish one of the toughest feats as an NBA front office executive – rebuild (or retool) while staying competitive.

Almost by default, McLemore may be the Grizzlies’ best perimeter shooter. Troy Daniels has shown promise but hasn’t shown much else aside from being a deep threat. Memphis has filed through shooters over the years, with few sticking. Hopefully, McLemore’s shooting will continue to be consistent – and his flaws become negligible. Depending on Tony Allen’s free agency destination, McLemore could be the Grizzlies’ starting shooting guard as well.

McLemore seemed relieved and excited to join the Grizzlies.

On the defensive end, moving from Sacramento to Memphis could do wonders for the wing player. In Sacramento, McLemore went through four coaches in four seasons – each with differing X’s and O’s philosophies. While Coach David Fizdale may only be in his second year as a head coach in Memphis, the Grit N’ Grind culture (favorite buzzword) persists. Given Memphis’ lack of a true offensive superstar, they will likely revert back to their calling card – hard-nosed defense. If McLemore can buy into the team’s philosophy – and if he’s able to lock in on the defensive end – his roughly $5 million annual salary could be a steal.

Heading into the 2017-2018 campaign, the Memphis Grizzlies will be markedly different than in previous years. The team is younger, with an injection of athleticism (rather than grit). Ben McLemore may be heading into his fifth year in the NBA, but he still has a bit of potential to be filled. The Grizzlies are hoping that McLemore finally blossoms – or at least fills a role as a solid shooter. The upcoming season will be a proving ground for both Ben McLemore and the Memphis Grizzlies.

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