Detroit Pistons Draft Targets: Ben McLemore, SG-Kansas

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Detroit Pistons Draft Targets: Ben McLemore, SG-Kansas
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This is the fifth article in my series previewing potential draft choices for the Detroit Pistons.

Prior articles focused on Michigan's Trey Burke, Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Georgetown's Otto Porter and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad.

The Detroit Pistons are in a free-fall since the injury to center Andre Drummond. As a result, they have improved their chances of picking up a top-five or even top-three draft pick this year.

People reading this article may be thinking two separate yet divergent thoughts.

Do the Pistons really need a shooting guard?

Will Ben McLemore even be an option for them?

It is true that the Pistons have been using Brandon Knight at the shooting guard spot since their mid-season deal for Jose Calderon with mixed results.

It is also true that McLemore has been projected to go as high as number one overall.

That being said, the Pistons are a team that is rebuilding. As such, they need to draft the best player available to improve their overall roster.

At this point, it makes little sense to eliminate the possibility of drafting players simply because they may not fit a need or they may not be on the board.

 

Scouting Ben McLemore, SG-Kansas

McLemore, simply put, is the best wing player in the nation.

An elite athlete, McLemore can shoot the lights out and play above the rim.

Despite being only about average size for a shooting guard (6'5', 195 lbs), he plays much bigger than his frame.

Offensively, there is little he can't do.

He is an elite three-point shooter with perhaps the best looking right-handed shot since Ray Allen came out of Connecticut.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

His range is truly unlimited as he can knock down shots from just about anywhere on the court. He is hitting over 43 percent of his three-pointers despite shooting nearly five of them per game.

He also is hitting over 50 percent of his shots from the field and nearly 87 percent from the free-throw line.

So what exactly separates him from pinpoint shooters like Otto Porter and Shabazz Muhammad?

For one, McLemore is an explosive athlete. He thrives on taking the ball to the hoop and dunks with a mean streak.

There is also the excitement he exhibits when he makes a big play. McLemore seems to really love the game of basketball, and his excitement is contagious. 

Check out the dunk at about 4:47 over OSU's Aaron Craft!

Another aspect of his game that truly distinguishes him from Muhammad in particular is his ability to play elite defense. McLemore has the makings of a lock-down defender on the perimeter, using tremendous quickness and a long wingspan.

McLemore can block shots (nearly one per game), steal the rock (1.1 per contest) and stay in front of his man.

He will need to gain some strength, but not a lot. This isn't someone like Porter that needs to gain at least 20-30lbs of muscle in order to be effective. McLemore, at most, needs to gain about 10-15lbs to be an elite defender at the next level.

The only real knock that you can put on McLemore's game is a lack of consistency and a somewhat underwhelming ability to create his own shot.

Take for instance a stretch of six games that spanned from February 11th through March 2nd. He scored: 30, 13, 7, 14, 7 and 36 points respectively.

Sure, there were those impressive 30 and 36 point performances, but it is very disconcerting that he had two games with less than double-digit points.

That being said, he is a freshman on a team with plenty of veterans so he is likely to defer to older players on occasion.

Whether or not this foreshadows a tendency to defer is anyone's guess. Frankly, his ability to score in bunches, and his overall offensive package, make these fears tolerable.

 

How He fits Detroit

Just like we said when previewing Burke and Muhammad, a lot of the decision-making that goes into this draft pick will center on what the Pistons feel is Brandon Knight's future with the team.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If they think that Knight can be a point guard, then they will need a shooting guard. If they don't, then they probably won't need one.

The difference here is that if McLemore is on the board, the Pistons need to take him regardless of their positions of need.

Think back to 2003.

The Pistons were set at shooting guard and small forward, yet the two best players on the draft board were Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. The Pistons were thinking that they had a bigger need up front and infamously drafted Darko Milicic.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Now obviously we can debate this pick. We can also debate whether or not Milicic would have been drafted No. 2 overall had the Denver Nuggets or Miami Heat had that pick.

The point is that the Pistons did not draft the best player available because they thought they were set in their backcourt.

Had Detroit chosen to pick either Wade or Anthony, they could have opted to deal one of their existing players, or just supplemented their squad and boosted their depth.

A Pistons' team with either of those two superstar wings on their team could have changed their fortunes for a decade or so.

Obviously this is all hindsight and we know what they say about that. But this could be a lesson that team president Joe Dumars has learned.

If the Pistons have a shot at McLemore, they will have all of the bargaining chips. They could choose to keep Knight and Calderon around and essentially audition all three players over the course of the next two years. Then they could choose whichever two players they want.

On Detroit's squad, McLemore could be a devastating option. His quick releases and amazing range would open up scoring opportunities down low for both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

Additionally, he would be a nice safety valve for whomever is playing point guard.

Defensively, he would be a huge upgrade in the backcourt. His length and height would make him an ideal shooting guard defender.

What is even more exciting would be McLemore's impact on the open floor.

The Pistons have been trying to play a wide-open transition game for years, and McLemore is an ideal fit for that type of game. His ability to play above the rim and flush down alley-oops, paired with Drummond, would make the Pistons one of the more exciting teams in the Eastern Conference.

 

Outlook

Unless McLemore completely bombs during the NCAA tournament, he is going to have very high draft stock.

He could be the top pick in this year's draft depending on who is drafting.

The Pistons have an outside shot of drafting in the top three; if so, they will have a chance at McLemore.

If the Pistons final 13 games play out the way their last 13 games have gone (one win, 12 losses), and the rest of the teams at the bottom of the standings are similarly consistent, the Pistons could be in line for a top-three pick.

The Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats are the only two teams that are likely to have worse records than the Pistons. And both teams have immediate needs in their frontcourt.

That being said, a player of McLemore's talent could be too tempting to pass on.

Therefore, the Pistons had better hope that both of those teams fall in love with other options.

Or that they get lucky in the lottery and hop over one, or both, of them.

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