Ben McLemore struggled in his rookie season, in nearly every aspect. Towards the end of the season McLemore put together some better scoring performances, and we hoped to see him continue that trend in his sophomore year. Most expected that he would continue to shoot better as he had more NBA experience. He's struggled to start the year, but it's still early. But a bigger question coming in to this year was his defense. And in this area McLemore has surpassed all expectations.
McLemore had the tools to be a good defender. He's incredibly athletic, and has good footspeed. He just seems to lack the awareness, never knowing where to be or when. Not sticking with guys. Getting lost in rotations. We expected shooting to improve because McLemore has a nice shooting motion. We wondered if a 21-year old could ever be taught basic defensive principles if he hadn't learned them already.
This season, McLemore has been a great surprise on the defensive end. He's using his athleticism, and putting in the effort to make his man work. It's there in the eye test, his defense is noticeable during games. And although we know we're dealing with small sample sizes, the numbers are backing up what the eye test says.
Last season, Ben McLemore had a defensive rating of 107.6. Defensive rating was developed by Dean Oliver, who now serves as the Kings' Director of Player Development. It indicates the number of points a player gives up per 100 possessions. 107.6 is, to put it bluntly, awful. It matches up with the poor defense we saw last year.
This season, McLemore's defensive rating is 94.0. That is insanely good. Now, that number is going to go up over the course of this season. I can confidently predict this because last season's NBA leader in defensive efficiency was Joakim Noah, at 95.8. So, sustainable? No. But impressive? You better believe it.
It's frustrating watching Ben struggle with his shooting. He needs to get some confidence and begin knocking down shots. He needs to draw some fouls and get to the line. But we can be really, really excited by his progress on the defensive side of the floor.
Stats via nba.com/stats and basketball-reference.com