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Can Ben McLemore turn it around?

The fourth-year shooting guard hasn’t lived up to his lottery pick status, but with less pressure than ever, can he finally start playing to his potential?

Ben McLemore Kimani Okearah

It's time once again for our annual series "30Q" in which we answer 30 questions over the course of September as we get ready for the upcoming season.

By far one of the more frustrating developments of last season was the regression of Ben McLemore. Last year’s 30Q about Ben focused on his excellent sophomore season and the hope that he could take the 3rd year leap to truly become a consistent contributor on at least one end of the floor. Instead, he saw his minutes and production decrease across the board.

It didn’t help matters that Shooting Guard was such a poor position for the Kings last season. There was real opportunity for McLemore to solidify himself as the guy at the spot for the future, but instead his inconsistency led to a lesser and lesser role as the season went on. Rumors abounded that the Kings and McLemore were looking for a mutual parting of ways, but no trade ever happened, probably because any deals involving McLemore probably weren’t worth it on Sacramento’s end.

It seems likely that McLemore will still be on the team by opening night given how little interest he seems to have generated on the trade market. Dave Joerger has raved about his work ethic in multiple interviews, something we’ve heard about before. But work ethic hasn’t been McLemore’s problem in the NBA, it’s been his consistency and confidence. McLemore has a tendency to disappear at times, and when he doesn’t get the ball for a while it’s like he’s not even on the court. Michael Malone tried to remedy this at times by making it a point to get McLemore the ball early on in the games to try to get his confidence up. It remains to be seen how Joerger approaches McLemore, but one thing that seems certain is that McLemore will no longer be considered the de facto starter.

When the Kings brought in Arron Afflalo and Garrett Temple (and to a lesser extent, Matt Barnes) it was in direct response to last year’s shooting guard woes. Both Afflalo and Temple were brought in to bring a veteran presence and consistency at the position. Marco Belinelli was shipped out for a younger, higher potential shooting guard in Malachi Richardson and Ben was kind of left out to dry, with many thinking he’d also be gone in a trade soon enough.

It’s already September and no trade has happened. With Darren Collison likely out for a while, Ben’s set to be a part of the rotation at least for a little while. It will likely be the last chance he has to prove himself with the Kings as a rotation player. McLemore almost certainly will never be the star that some hoped he could become when the Kings drafted him with the 7th pick in 2013, but he still could become a decent 3-and-D player. Take a player like Danny Green for example. It took him a few years and a D-League stint, but eventually he found himself as a key contributor on a championship team because he figured out his role and stuck to it.

McLemore has never really had a well-defined role. The chaos in Sacramento hasn’t helped his development either. Joerger will already be his fourth coach in four seasons. Hopefully without the pressure to start every night, McLemore can grow into himself and have a bigger role coming off the bench than he did playing with the starters. He’s still just 23 years old, and if he can figure out a way to carve some playing time this year, it might just save his NBA career. That’s good for McLemore, and it’s good for the Kings. Here’s hoping for a win-win scenario.