During the 2013 NBA draft, no player experienced a more stunning fall down draft boards than Kansas Jayhawks shooting guard Ben McLemore. Ultimately, the player once named as a potential No. 1 fell to the Sacramento Kings at No. 7 overall.
The question is, what must McLemore do to have a successful rookie campaign in Sacramento?
McLemore averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal as a redshirt freshman in 2012-13. He also posted a slash line of .495/.420/.870, converting 73 three-point field goals in 37 games played for the Kansas Jayhawks.
In turn, McLemore emerged as the premier offensive player in the 2013 NBA draft.
Not only was McLemore revered as the best scorer in the draft, he was likened to some of the all-time greats.
In the months leading up to the annual selection process, McLemore garnered comparisons to NBA legend and future Hall of Fame inductee Ray Allen. From his gorgeous shooting stroke to the effortless athleticism McLemore possesses, the star potential is present.
Unfortunately, being a great prospect and making it work at the next level are two completely different things. While creating the reputation of a star may take years of hard work and preparation, proving and maintaining one's validity is a different animal.
Here's how McLemore can get a quick start on his road to stardom.
Be Assertive from the Start
McLemore has an NBA body, elite athleticism, a world-class shooting stroke and defensive upside. Normally, this would result in McLemore going where many scouts projected, at No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA draft.
Unfortunately, McLemore possesses the one trait that no general manager wants to draft—he lacks assertiveness.
During his tenure at Kansas, McLemore routinely disappeared during games, maintaining an elite level of efficiency but almost refusing to take control. Whether that was a product of the system or a sign of his unwillingness to dominate is unclear, but in order to have success in the NBA, McLemore must be aggressive.
On a Kings team without any other perimeter scoring threats, it won't be too hard for him to do so.
McLemore can be the go-to shooter for the Kings, spacing the floor for DeMarcus Cousins and serving as a kick-out option for Greivis Vasquez. This role alone should help McLemore develop an early confidence at the next level.
From there, it's all about developing his mentality as a scorer and capitalizing on his strengths.
Work the Open Floor
If there's one thing that we know about McLemore, it's that he can shoot the basketball. For those who decided to dig deeper than the basic statistics, it's also quite clear that, in the open court, McLemore is as dangerous as any rookie in the NBA.
With Mike Malone taking over as head coach, it's imperative that McLemore takes advantage of the transition scoring opportunities that come with the new philosophy in Sacramento.
If McLemore is able to enter the lane and finish in the open court, he can keep opposing defenses on their toes. While his ball handling is solid, his ability to create off the bounce is significantly overstated.
If McLemore is forced to create his own shot in the half court on a consistent basis, he will struggle to score with efficiency. If he's able to mix spot-up shooting with open-court points coming near the basket, however, McLemore's ball handling will not be exposed.
In the end, it's all about trusting his team.
Trust DeMarcus Cousins
For a player that lives by the jump shot, the most important player on the floor is the offensive big man. The point guard may move the ball around the perimeter, but a shooter is only as open as his interior enables him to be.
How will Ben McLemore fare as a rookie?
In this instance, that player is DeMarcus Cousins.
The perfect offense keeps the sharpshooter in line with the low-post presence, thus creating an angle for the big man to kick it out. This works to perfection with dominant interior scorers like Cousins, who can collapse an opposing defense and provide open looks for McLemore.
That's exactly why McLemore must trust Cousins to lead this team.
There will be more than a handful of opportunities for McLemore to take over in each passing game, as Sacramento simply doesn't have a perimeter alternative. With that being said, scoring is all about finding a rhythm, and the only way for McLemore to do so is to establish his jumper.
With an attention-grabbing center down low in Cousins and an elite facilitator in Vasquez, McLemore will work his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation if he trusts the fundamentals of team offense.