There was no other way to describe Ben McLemore last season other than sporadic. One night he would have a quarter or two where his crisp shooting technique would guide the ball delicately into the hoop, and on other nights the ball would send an echo that reverberated deep into the stands as it clanked off the rim. We're five games into the 2014-15 season and we have seen a lot of the same underwhelming shooting from the second-year shooting guard. But McLemore seems to have learned the art of impacting a game with his defense, and he has high aspirations for himself in this category.
"My offense is going to come, but one of my goals is to be a good defender - one of the best two guard defenders in the league," McLemore told Sactown Royalty. "You see me last year, it was like rookie defense. Now, I'm starting to watch film and learn the game and learn how to play defense."
In Wednesday's win over the Denver Nuggets, McLemore stayed in front of his man, stopped the ball and logged a block to go along with seven rebounds. Greg Wissinger recently went into depth about McLemore's defensive progress - his defensive rating is much improved (94.6) and he is holding his opponents at the two guard position to 41 percent from the field overall and 33 percent from three when guarding them (the Kings have really stressed taking away the three). And with him playing next to Darren Collison, who is doing a pretty darn good job on defense as well, the Kings backcourt no longer looks like an open expressway to the basket for opponents.
McLemore's defense on Wednesday also led to his offense clicking, scoring 10 points as he finally saw the ball go through the hoop a few times.
"I know it's going to come, like you saw tonight. But my defensive effort, my offense was rolling. It made it easier for me on the offensive end," McLemore said after the game.
Defense leading to offense is one of the things head coach Michael Malone lives by and so far, it looks like the entire team, including McLemore, has bought in.
McLemore also showed some fire when he got into it a little with Denver's 7'1'' center Timofey Mozgov. On the possession immediately after that, he buried a corner three and threw up "threes" on his hands for the crowd. You like to see that sort of resolve and confidence from a guy who was always pegged as a natural scorer but is still trying to figure it out.
With DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay playing at the level they are currently playing at and the bench producing at a high rate, McLemore's shooting woes have been masked more than they were last season, which has helped accentuate his defense. There are some talented, talented shooting guards in the NBA so McLemore has a long way to go to reach his goal to be one the best defenders at the position, but his progress is certainly noticeable.
The progress of the 4-1 Kings also is noticeable. My conversation with McLemore on Wednesday night ended with him saying, "we're all having fun together."