Ben McLemore. Before this season, he was unknown, and essentially a non-factor on every draft board across the country.
As a redshirt freshman, McLemore began the season well out of the spotlight that was being shared by players like Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller.
As the season went on, however, people (including myself) began to catch on. He's not just some athletic shooting guard that comes at a dime a dozen. He is going to be an All-Star one day. Maybe even a superstar.
He shot up draft boards while other prospects fell. He has now become one of the very few premiere players in this draft.
Still, despite being at, or near the top, McLemore is entering the draft extraordinarily underrated.
McLemore is the best player in what is considered one of the worst drafts in the past decade or more. Because of this, most people aren't even paying attention to his star potential.
Sure, you can watch the highlight videos and be impressed. "Everyone is a baller in their highlight videos" a commenter said not long ago. And that's true, highlight videos (including McLemore's) are created to make the player look as amazing as possible.
But I watched around 5 regular season games with McLemore, I've seen hours of game tape from him, and I have no problems sitting here calling him incredibly underrated.
The lottery will likely decide where McLemore goes in the draft, but it could be as high as No. 1 overall, and it's extremely unlikely that he falls out of the top three.
In a weak draft, most people are only giving him golf-clap applause for being such a tremendous player. But whoever selects McLemore in the draft will walk away with a player capable of being drafted at the top of any draft.
He's incredibly athletic with good length and absolutely absurd leaping abilities. He finishes at the rim very well, and dunks with as much power as anyone you'll ever see. At 6'5", McLemore is not a small guy, but his leaping abilities allow him to essentially get eye-level with the rim.
His jump shot is smooth and quick, and he can make it from anywhere. He shot at a blistering 49.5 percent from the floor this season, including a smooth 42 percent from three-point range, with a lot of those three-pointers being NBA-distance shots.
He runs the floor well, finishes at the rim with flair and strength, and is quick on his feet and obviously a very capable wing defender.
Perhaps the only chink in his armor is the fact that he fell off a bit during the tournament, but even during Kansas' Sweet 16 loss to Michigan, McLemore still recorded 20 points. He'll also have to work on his ball handling and ability to create his own shots, as right now he's more of a spot-up shooter.
Favorable comparisons are being made to Ray Allen, but I think McLemore could be even better. Ray Allen isn't looked upon as one of the best athletes in the game, carving his niche as a pure-shooter (and one of the best shooters of all time), but McLemore is a pure athlete. He might not have as clean of a shot as Allen, but he will command more authority offensively because of his high-motor and athleticism.
Ultimately, this is simply informed speculation. McLemore will almost definitely be an above average player in the NBA, and I don't really think anyone will dispute that. But above average and All-Star are two completely different things, and McLemore is going to fall into the latter category.
As a Charlotte Bobcats fan, it hurts to know that McLemore would be something of a redundancy on this roster and that Noel makes much more sense to improve the team. But if Charlotte should get the chance to draft him, I should hope that they don't hesitate, even with Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon already on the roster (assuming both return).
The Orlando Magic have already made it known (even before workouts) that McLemore is likely going to be their top priority in this year's draft, even with the dependable Arron Afflalo on the roster.
Teams aren't overlooking McLemore, and neither are draft boards, all of which have him at or near the top.
But someday down the line, people are going to look back at this weak draft and remember that Ben McLemore was a star in the making. People are going to look at him as one of the most underrated picks of all time, even if he goes No. 1 overall.
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