Why Kansas Star Ben McLemore Is The Next Ray Allen
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Unlike all of the prospects who have been wrongfully compared to Ray Allen over the years, Ben McLemore legitimately has a game that lends itself to these comparisons.
When Ray Allen came out of Connecticut back in 1996, he was drafted at No. 5 and immediately began what would become a legendary career. Now that he's made more three-pointers than any player in NBA history, he's emerged as a complimentary comparandum for the premier shooting guards emerging from the ranks of college basketball.
No ordinary shooting guard deserves to be compared to the 2-guard now balling alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, but McLemore is no ordinary shooting guard. Albeit in a weak class, the Kansas product has an outside shot at going No. 1, giving him a chance to do what no player at his position has done since Austin Carr back in 1971.
That's right. Allen wasn't drafted at No. 1. Neither was Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant. Shooting guards just aren't taken with the top overall pick, and yet McLemore has a small chance to buck that trend.
Throughout his short-lived career as a Jayhawk, the 20-year-old scored points in bunches, improved his draft stock and legitimized comparisons to the most prolific three-point shooter of not just our generation, but all time. While he was inconsistent and began to fade during his freshman season, he still displayed quite a few tools that should remind you of the former Husky.
Does that shot look like anything you've seen before?
When you watch McLemore play, the first thing you notice is his knack for knocking down shots from long range. He elevates well before shooting the ball at the top of his jump, and his mechanics are as perfect as they get at this age.
During Mclemore's first—and only—season in Lawrence, he knocked down two three-pointers per game while shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. Nineteen years earlier, Allen debuted in the Big East by averaging a three-pointer per contest on 40.2 percent shooting. At the end of his three-year collegiate career, he was averaging 2.3 three-pointers per game while shooting 44.8 percent from long range.
It's not always about the numbers. It's about how the two players look shooting the ball.
McLemore elevates more while Allen's release is quicker. Both traits, however, give these players the ability to get shots off with ease.
In each case, you can see just how well the players square their bodies to the basket while on the move.
Allen, on that record-setting three-pointer that he shot with the same form he's used throughout his career, runs the court, receives the pass and has absolutely no difficulty elevating in perpendicular fashion. It's no trouble for him to stop his momentum and jump straight up while squaring to the basket.
McLemore's shot is more difficult. He's moving perpendicular to the basket, not the ground, but he still manages to elevate directly toward the rafters to get off a clean look.
Each of these shooting guards thrives because they have the body control and touch to hit shots from any portion of the court, regardless of the situation. Their affinity for right angles is sure to make Euclid smile in his grave.
Ability to Curl Off Screens
It's not just the release and volume of the three-pointers that leads to the similarities, but also how they get the shots.
Both McLemore and Allen, at least the college version of Allen, aren't particularly comfortable creating their own shots. The Connecticut product developed an ability to put up shots off the dribble, something that has served him well throughout his excellent NBA career. His Kansas counterpart will likely do the same. He just hasn't yet.
That said, Allen still prefers to score via the catch-and-shoot. He's the undeniable master of using screens to free himself for open looks, and, even at his age, its difficult to stick with him over the course of a game.
McLemore did the exact same thing while at Kansas.
He's not quite as intelligent as a cutter, but the constant threat of a backdoor cut leading to a momentum-swinging alley-oop keeps his defender on his toes and gives the shooting guard the opportunity to free himself on the perimeter.
What makes both of these shooters special is their ability to free themselves and get off clean looks with only a little bit of space. Shooting with a lanky defender closing out is no easy feat, and yet both of these players do it so consistently well that they make it look simple.
Don't Forget About Ray Allen's Early Career
"A slasher, can get to the basket in half court set, and is an explosive and exciting finisher, mostly on the break. Excellent runner, has good quickness and leaping ability, and big hands, which allows him to catch the ball on the move and dunk on people..."
But you already knew that McLemore was a sensational athlete. That description of him is unnecessary because you've seen all the dunks and rim-rattling slams that he tortures defenses with. You've seen him run the break and finish in transition with ease.
That would be relevant if, you know, that quote up above was actually about the Kansas shooting guard. It's not.
Instead, it's from scout Eiro Monitz's pre-draft report back in 1996, describing a certain shooting guard entering the draft from Connecticut.
Both older fans, inundated by images of an athletically-limited Allen sticking to perimeter shooting, and younger ones who never experienced the hops have forgotten that the three-point marksman used to be an athletic specimen. Remember this dunk?
How about this one?
McLemore, much like Allen before him, isn't just a perimeter shooter. His best asset is his ability to jump, something he put on display when he skied 42 inches into the air at the combine.
He'll continue showing it off at the next level. When McLemore joins the Association, he'll dazzle us with the occasional SportsCenter-worthy dunk while maintaining a consistent presence from the perimeter.
Is Ben McLemore the next Ray Allen?
As a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. He nailed 117 three-pointers during his first professional season, leaving him as one of 34 rookies in NBA history who hit triple figures.
Expect McLemore to do more than that.
He'll post similar numbers and become the 35th player in that exclusive club, but he'll also cement the Allen comparisons and make it look like Jesus Shuttlesworth has risen.
Maybe down the road, he'll even force Spike Lee to create a sequel to He Got Game.
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