Opinion: Teams will regret passing on McLemore

Kansas' Ben McLemore, picked by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the NBA basketball draft, speaks during a news conference Thursday, June 27, 2013, in New York.

Kansas' Ben McLemore, picked by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the NBA basketball draft, speaks during a news conference Thursday, June 27, 2013, in New York.

June 28, 2013


In letting Ben McLemore slip all the way to seventh in Thursday night’s draft, NBA general managers were guilty of obsessing on Cindy Crawford’s mole, the hitch in Jim Furyk’s golf swing, the raspy flatness to Bob Dylan’s voice.

In a classic case of paralysis by over-analysis, those who passed on McLemore overlooked the obvious. The Kansas shooting guard has a better shot and more athleticism than anybody drafted, qualities that make him a potential star at both ends and at his best in transition.

In obsessing on his passive personality, they also overlooked how well he responded to Bill Self’s coaching and how much he cares about improving his game.

Can’t quarrel much with the Cleveland Cavaliers for drafting mega-talent Anthony Bennett of UNLV with the top pick. And I loved that the Charlotte Bobcats had the guts to select Cody Zeller, a terrific outside shooter who didn’t have a chance to showcase that at Indiana, fourth.

The other four teams that passed on McLemore showed no guts. Picking second, the Orlando Magic went the safe route and took Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, who plays the same position as McLemore. With the third selection, the Washington Wizards did the same, avoiding risk with Georgetown’s Otto Porter, a solid small forward.

The Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans, drafting for the Philadelphia 76ers, played a different sort of safe game, opting for centers. Size is hard to find in the draft, the analysts love to say, and general managers can get away with swinging and missing on big guys more than on wings. Injury risks Alex Len and Nerlens Noel were selected before McLemore went to the Kings.

It’s probably for the better that McLemore didn’t go to the Suns, where he could have been, ahem, mentored by Marcus and Markieff Morris and Michael Beasley.

McLemore’s headed to a lousy team blessed with a good coach, the right kind of teacher for a young-for-his-age (20) rookie. Mike Malone is not an insecure screamer. His father, Brendan Malone, now an assistant for Mike in Sacramento, has coached in the NBA for 25 years, almost all as an assistant. Nice people, the coaching Malones.

Now it’s up to McLemore to use the disappointment at lasting until the seventh pick to fuel him to Rookie of the Year honors on the way to multiple All-Star game appearances.

McLemore must do what those who passed on him didn’t. He must dare to be great, not stay comfortable by fading into the background and letting veterans hog the ball. He floats like Scottie Pippen and shoots like Ray Allen. If he can try his hardest to compete even a bit like Michael Jordan, he’ll make a lot of men feel really stupid for a long, long time. Even gentle Ben, a nice, kind sort, would derive great pleasure out of that.


jhawkinsf 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Sacramento is a place where even good players go, never to be heard from again. Maybe new owners will change the culture, but I'm not optimistic. I hope Ben plays out his rookie contract and gets his butt to some franchise that gives a hoot about winning. He deserves that much.


jane_doe 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I so so so so so wanted Orlando to pick him. My ex boyfriend has season tickets to the Magic and I think he would have totally been pizzled off if he had to watch a KU player. Petty, I know...but entertaining.


lawrenceloser 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Geez...He's only 20 years old. I'd say he has plenty of time to work on his game. All the things you mentioned are correctable and the NBA game is a whole different animal from KU. "Catch and shoot" was part of the offense that Self used.


onewillow 9 months, 3 weeks ago

He showed no ability or desire to go to his left. He didnt show the ability to create his own shot. He was a one dimensional catch and shoot player. A nice young man? Yes. A great NBA talent? We shall see. Lets hope so for Ben and his family.


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