Ben McLemore: Kansas Star Must Prove He's Worthy of NBA Draft's No. 1 Pick

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 28, 2013

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 22: Ben McLemore #23 of the Kansas Jayhawks looks on during a free throw against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers  during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 24, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft is up for grabs.

There isn't a player in the draft class who has clearly distinguished himself as the undeniable No. 1 overall pick.

Kentucky center Nerlens Noel could have been that player before tearing his ACL against Florida in February. He could still be that player, but it's not as clear-cut anymore.

That's why Kansas star Ben McLemore's performance in the NCAA tournament could determine the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

As a freshman, McLemore averaged 15.8 points during the regular season while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 42 percent from long range. He's also a solid rebounder for his size, averaging 5.3 boards per game at 6'5", 195 pounds.

Prospects have been known to rise and fall on draft boards based on their performances in the NCAA tournament in the past. Former Connecticut guard Kemba Walker was selected No. 9 overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2011 draft after exploding in the NCAA tournament en route to UConn's national title.

McLemore hasn't fared well in the NCAA tournament so far this year. That was on full display against North Carolina in the round of 32, when the 20-year-old finished with two points on 0-of-9 shooting. You may remember that he also scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

Potential is more important than production in college when evaluating an NBA prospect, but that's not to say production doesn't matter. Perhaps McLemore flounders down the stretch in the NCAA tournament. Is he still a No. 1 pick? I'm not so sure.

Former North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes wasn't exactly tearing it up in the 2012 NCAA tournament, and he struggled to create his own shot. It led to questions about whether he would be a star or just a decent player in the NBA (questions furthered provoked by the fact that then-point guard Kendall Marshall missed the Tar Heels' last two games).

Looking at Barnes now, he's a decent player, but he's certainly not a star right out of the gate.

Kyrie Irving played in just 11 games at Duke before suffering a toe injury. That didn't stop the Cleveland Cavaliers from selecting him No. 1 overall in 2011, and we all know how that turned out. Then again, Irving didn't have a player like Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel to contend with.

It would be a shock if McLemore wasn't selected in the top 10 (or even top five) of the 2013 NBA draft. But if he expects to be regarded as the top prospect in the class, he still has some work to do.


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