Photo Credit: Kelley Cox/USA Today Sports
Of the surprising starts of the NBA season, one of my favorite to see is the Sacramento Kings. Lead by DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings are 5-3 in a tough Western Conference. One of the spots that is helping push the Kings is the return of Ben McLemore. McLemore was awful last season, even making the Elevator Doors Red Shirt Team in terms of inefficiency on the court. Although he hasn’t blown up, he is not a leaking ship the way he was last year. His points per game average is only 9.1 points right now after a very slow start, but in the last 4 games he has put up double figures, gaining points each game.
Using the Basketball Reference Heat charts it is easy to see where his shots went wrong last year. Here he is 2013-14:
In the three-to-ten feet range he was a putrid 21%. At 16 feet he was 33% and his three-point average was 32%. From three point to the basket he was 60%. So it was just rookie mistakes. The Kings took a bet on him, dealing Isaiah Thomas to bank on McLemore pulling through. It’s not that people thought McLemore was a bust, but his season was so poor, it was conceivable that he was going to take a lot longer than expected. And Isaiah was out the gate ready to get into games.
But now, the Kings look like they’ve made the right choice. Here’s McLemore’s Heat Chart for this season-
Small Sample Size Alert, but this is a more disciplined approach to shooting from the year before. The three-to-ten feet area is up to 28%, his 16 foot has dropped to 14%, but his three pointer has spiked to 42%. Even the interior is getting a huge spike at 83%. His true shooting percentage is a robust 60.9%
Where he dithered away in the long-two, he’s now stepping back and he’s forgoing the mid-range a lot for a more refined mid-range. His turnovers have stayed the same about 1 per game, but because of his increased touches and minutes, his turnover percentage is now at 14.3%. So there are still some issues, but McLemore is still being able to hang on a roster with a veteran shooter in Rudy Gay and an upcoming star in Boogie Cousins.