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Ben McLemore is turning into a good player before our eyes

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Thearon W. Henderson

The Sacramento Kings would have loved to have come out of this recent road trip better than 1-3, but even still there was some good that came of it.  By far the best thing that happened was that we started to see Ben McLemore grow into the player we hoped he could be when we drafted him with the 7th pick last year.

Coming out of college, McLemore was drafted to be an athletic shooter, someone who could hypothetically win both a dunk contest and a three point contest.  The reality was much more sobering.  McLemore got lost on defense time after time in his rookie year, and his vaunted shooting was nowhere to be seen.  For the year, McLemore shot just 37.6% from the field and 32% from three.  Those are abysmal numbers.

The start of this season didn't offer much hope either, as in the first five games of the year he was shooting even worse than last year.  That poor shooting overshadowed the fact that defensively, McLemore was actually doing a pretty good job, which by last year's standards was a substantial improvement.

Here's NBA.com's defensive tracking data on Ben so far this year:

McLemore D

In almost every area, Ben is holding guys to less than their normal FG%, and is forcing all opponents into just 40.3% from the field.  Compare that to last year's numbers, where he was allowing a very poor 48.9% from the field.

Eventually though, a guy has to start making his open shots.  It all seemed to come together over these last four games on the road for Ben, starting last Friday in Phoenix.  With DeMarcus Cousins fouled out of the game, it was McLemore who hit some tough clutch shots for the Kings in both overtime periods, and it was McLemore who stymied Eric Bledsoe.  These last four games, McLemore averaged 16.3 points on 54.8% from the field and 50% from three on 6 attempts a game.  Those numbers aren't sustainable, but they do show that McLemore can be consistent over a stretch of games, something he was not able to do last year.  Last year, McLemore only had one stretch all year where he scored 5 or more field goals in at least four consecutive games (like he did on this road trip), and only one of those games had him shooting 50% or better (which he did in all games of this trip).

Ben McLemore is far from a finished product and he's still got a lot to prove.  But it's safe to say that he's making great strides in the right direction, and that's phenomenal news for both him and the Sacramento Kings.