Prior to the season, Ben McLemore's name had little relevance on the national scale.
Now he's being considered a potential first overall pick, and rightfully so.
McLemore has taken advantage of the lack of star power in the projected 2013 NBA draft class, and has risen up the ranks into the top pier of prospects.
A pure off-guard who doesn't need the ball, McLemore will be offering teams two-way athleticism as a scorer and defender.
McLemore is a lights-out shooter, consistently dialed in on the perimeter. He's also been electric in the open floor, taking long, graceful strides and getting high above the rim in one fluid motion. Defensively he's active, forcing turnovers above the three-point arc and converting them into points the other way.
Over the past few weeks, McLemore has taken his game to a new level while many of his competing prospects have remained stagnant. Let's break down McLemore's recent performances, and see where he stacks up with the rest of the pack.
January 9, 2013—Kansas 97, Iowa State 89
Every NBA prospect who gets chosen in the lottery typically has some type of defining moment. This was Ben McLemore's.
He was brilliant all night, and clutch when it counted. McLemore scored 33 points and missed two shots in 40 minutes in an overtime win over Iowa State. He banked in the game-tying three-pointer with a second to go and opened the overtime session with another dagger from deep.
Every shot he made was with balance and rhythm. The mechanics on his jump shot were flawless. When the ball cleanly left his hands and his feet were squared up to the rim, all you had to do was listen for the swish.
Here are McLemore's highlights from the win:
As a perimeter scorer, McLemore showed off the whole arsenal. He pulled up, stepped back and spotted up from NBA range. He used screens off the ball to free himself up, slash to the basket and finish off one foot.
This game put scouts on alert that there might be a new No. 1 prospect in the 2013 draft class.
Recent Standout Performances
January 14, 2013— Kansas 51, Baylor 44
McLemore scored 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting against Baylor, showing off a little more versatility as a scorer off the dribble. He made a number of shots on the move, including floaters to avoid contact and strong takes to draw some.
He showed that he's more than just a long-range threat and that he can get his own points without having to be setup.
January 19, 2013— Kansas 64, Texas 59
Against Texas, McLemore's effortless athleticism was on full display. He scored 16 points on 6-of-10 from the floor, scoring on a few plays above the rim that are typically only seen in an NBA game.
Between these three games, McLemore showed scouts a little bit of everything. He's more of a No. 2 option at the next level than a No. 1, but in a weak draft class that should be enough to generate top-five attention.
The Big Picture
Without anyone really securing the top spot on the board, the NBA draft lottery could end up determining who goes where.
The Bobcats, Pistons, Raptors, Kings, Suns and Magic should all be in the market for scorers at the 2-guard slot or wing. At this point, McLemore's direct competitor is UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, the other top-scoring wing who is in the running for the first pick.
If McLemore never reaches his ceiling as an NBA prospect, he'll always have his shooting stroke, athleticism and defensive tools to work with, making him a low-risk, high-reward draft selection.
He's currently the No. 3 prospect on our board with room to rise to No. 1.