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Summer League Player Evaluation: Ben McLemore

Coming off of a stellar season with the Kansas Jayhawks, most thought Ben McLemore was a top-3 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. To the surprise of many, he fell to the No. 7 slot, selected by the Sacramento Kings.

A redshirt freshman in his 2012-13 season in college, McLemore averaged 15.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting, very efficient for a guard, to go along with 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals a game. His field goal percentage was not his only astounding statistic, as he also shot an excellent 42 percent from long-range, as well as 87 percent from the free throw line. A well-rounded offensive player to say the least.

As the Vegas Summer League takes place this week, he has struggled to find any comfort level or rhythm on the court.

Of course, that had to change for a guy with his resumé.

Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors, McLemore was averaging 12.5 points per game, having shot a total 8-for-35 from the field, including 2-for-18 on three-point attempts. He had struggled shooting the basketball and had been unable to find any sort of rhythm. We can blame this on rookie jitters, perhaps lacking confidence to start his pro career, thus taking bad shots.

We saw more of the same in his fourth game against Toronto in the first half: 1-for-4 from the field, including a miss from downtown.

However, come the second half, we saw the Ben McLemore that we’ve all been waiting for: 7-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. The rookie had finally established his rhythm and reminded us why he was predicted to go high in this year’s draft.

The start of this game was just like the three prior for the guard. He took a few bad early contested off-balance jumpers instead of looking for good shots to get in a rhythm and maximize on his scoring talent. He should look to start games by getting inside and scoring from the mid-range where he has demonstrated a great aptitude to get into rhythm and gain confidence fast. He tends to fall in love with the long-range jumper all throughout the game, whether in rhythm or not. Granted, he shot extremely well from the three-point line with Kansas, but we must remember the difference in the three-point distance in college and in the NBA, as well an even bigger need for him to get into rhythm, since he won’t be getting as many touches as he did in college, for now. He needs to learn to control his shot selection and take smarter shots, as he will not find himself getting away with jacking up shots like he may have gotten away with a bit last year.

Looking at his excellent offensive game, McLemore is an excellent spot-up shooter. Three of his eight makes from the field came off of spot-up opportunities. He is also a great catch-and-shoot type player, and he proved it in the contest against the Raptors as they accounted for four of his makes. He especially loves to catch-and-shoot when coming around screens.

McLemore needs to learn to keep himself in-check and not take out-of-control shots. His shooting is not the only part of his game that gets out of control. He plays extremely fast sometimes and needs to slow the game down at a pace that works for him and his team. He is averaging 3.7 turnovers in Vegas, including five turnovers in this particular contest, most coming in out-of-control situations.

His free-throw percentage definitely transitions well into the NBA. He went to the line seven times last night and converted on every single opportunity.

The rookie has not taken it inside much, but when he does, he has shown that he can finish nicely going right. He is still very young and has plenty of time to bulk up and build up strength to be a better drive-and-finish type of guy, which he will need in this league. It would also be to his advantage to work on going left, as he has trouble doing so.

As for the rest of his offensive game, he is a good ball-handler, adept at working his way inside by beating his man off the dribble. His quickness is an asset in this category and also helps him move off the ball well, creating space for himself to capitalize on his great catch-and-shoot skills.  He also happens to be a decent passer, possessing the ability to create great catch-and-shoot opportunities for his teammates and can also make the post-entry pass quite well, getting the ball in the post to his bigs in various ways: bounce passes, chest passes, lobs... Polishing his passing skills in transition is something he could work on.

On the defensive side of the game, McLemore sees passing lanes well and earns a few deflections and steals for his team.

However, the cons outweigh the pros on this side of the court.

He tends to lose sight of his man often, focusing on the ball too much instead of being aware of his man moving off the ball. He needs to learn to use his quickness to his advantage and stay in front of his man.

One of the reasons he loses his man is because of his tendency to play too fast. He likes to clean up the glass on the defensive end almost every time the opposing team puts a shot up, but his habit of playing too quickly and getting ahead of himself factors into his tendency to crash the boards, and consequently his man finds himself wide open often enough. Fortunately for him, his quickness and athleticism help him get back in time at times.

Also, he is lucky enough to have a coach like Mike Malone mentoring him as a young man. Known as a defensive specialist, Malone was the reason the Golden State Warriors were one of the most improved defense teams in the NBA last season. He was also the reason the Hornets were the most improved defensive team in the league in 2011. Safe to say Malone will be able to take this young rookie under his wing and help him develop his game both physically and mentally.

Yes, he fell back quite a bit in this year’s draft, more then most would’ve thought, but Sacramento is a great fit for Ben McLemore, who brings a scoring punch they have desperately needed, as well as great potential to be great on both ends of the court, no matter how mediocre things look right now defensively.

Summer League Player Evaluation: Kelly Olynyk

When one talks about a pure scorer, we tend to think of well-known superstars like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, players that have proven their ability to get the ball in the basket to be second-nature to them, scoring in many different manners.

Younger, less experienced players with the ability to score in the same fashion are often overlooked simply because we want proof that they can truly take their scoring games to the next level against the elite.

So far, so good for the Boston Celtics’ new rookie, Kelly Olynyk.

Four games into Summer League, the 7’0, 234 lbs center from Gonzaga is averaging 19.5 points on a super-efficient 57.4 percent shooting for a rookie, to go along with eight rebounds and 2.2 steals. 

In his last game against the Houston Rockets, he delivered the first double-double of Summer League, posting 19 points and 10 rebounds. Four great showings by the B.C native has earned him the number one rank atop the first NBA.com Rookie Ladder of the upcoming season.

Three games in, Olynyk shot 3-for-7 from long-range, but following his showing against Houston  where he went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, he is now shooting 25 percent from the three-point line.

Let’s take a closer look at his showing against the Rockets.

There were two blemishes on his final stat-line: his poor three-point shooting and his five turnovers.

As he has shown in college and in the first three games, he is excellent at running the floor and scoring in transition, going 2-for-2 on shots taken on fastbreak opportunities. He is also a good finisher at the rim, able to finish with both hands quite expertly. Dating back to Gonzaga, he is a very smart offensive player who loves to create contact to get to the free-throw line, where he shot 77.6 percent last season for the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, he was only 3-for-6 for the game, contributing to his off-shooting night.

As a refined offensive threat, Olynyk has a wide variety of shots in his arsenal, able to make step-back jumpers, turnaround jumpers and scoop shots just to name a few. He was 1-for-1 from mid-range for the game, his one make coming on a step-back jumper from 17 feet. It is also to his advantage to be able to make shots in traffic or off the dribble. 

Olynyk is a very legitimate post threat, having demonstrated polished skills from the block the first three games, whether he’s scoring in the various ways he knows how or threading the needle on passes to shooters on the perimeter, he can do it all from the post. He has also shown the ability to catch the ball far out and work his way under the rim with good footwork and a variety of fakes and spins. 

In the game in question, he finished 8-for-14 from the field. This can be broken down into three categories: 7-for-8 shooting in the paint, 1-for-1 from mid-range and 0-for-5 from long-range. Many of his points in the paint came off of tip-shots. Olynyk crashed the glass very effectively against Houston, six of his 10 total rebounds coming on the offensive board, two of which were tip-shots. He is averaging 3.3 offensive rebounds so far in this Summer League, a great number that should certainly help a Celtics team that was 29th in rebounding last season. 

He should be alarmed as to his foul totals, averaging 4.8 fouls-per-game in 26.5 minutes of play. If he wants more minutes, he needs to discipline himself on the defensive end and be very careful in regards to his positioning. It would also serve him well to avoid being too aggressive and being called for offensive fouls, as he will probably find himself on the block often. 

In terms of his defense, the Canadian is quite frankly a mediocre defender. He is not athletic, something that hurts his cause on that end, and is not very quick on his feet when defending his man. Look for teams to exploit him on pick-and-rolls as he does a very poor job of containing it, being too slow to recover to his man or to stop the pick-and-roll ball handlers from blowing by him and getting to the rim. Finally, he gets caught over-helping at times, allowing his man to wander and get enough space to control the pass and fire a great look.

Some scouts have compared him to the likes of Spencer Hawes and Fabricio Oberto. The way he’s been playing, it is without a doubt that he is the tools to be much better then those two, no disrespect to any of them. It isn’t by chance that he is so refined offensively. As a kid, he was taught the game of basketball by having the game broken down for him completely, making him a very fundamentally-sound player. In the same way, he must break the game down on the defensive end of the floor in order to elevate his IQ and develop his skills as a defender. 

Summer League Player Evaluation: Trey Burke

Point guard extraordinaire out of Michigan, Trey Burke has his work cut out for him for a Utah Jazz team that’s desperate for a quality floor general.

Taken with the No. 9 pick in the draft, Burke is believed to be the most NBA-ready point guard in this year’s lottery. The expectations on Burke are high, but he has proven to have leadership qualities in this past year’s NCAA Final Four.

In his second Summer League game in Orlando, Burke delivered 11 points on a mere 5-for-15 shooting performance, including 1-for-6 from long-range. He also tallied up five fouls and four turnovers, making this a game to forget for the young man.

Contrary to what his stat-line shows, there were quite a few positives to see from his performance against the Houston Rockets. 

Firstly, Burke is a great shooter from all areas on the floor. A significant number of his shot attempts were great looks. Unfortunately for him and his team, he missed many of the same looks he was drilling last season for the Wolverines. His arsenal includes a variety of different shots that he makes on a consistent basis: floaters, step-back jumpers and set jump-shots. He is also quite adept at creating for himself - 2-for-2 in those situations against the Rockets - and shooting off the dribble. In terms of his off-ball play, he moves very well and is very active. We can also add that he makes the right decisions on fast breaks, leading into a number of transition baskets for his team. Finally, he shows great expertise at splitting screens and finishing near the rim or dishing the ball to the open man.

He definitely has the ability to score, but he is also an excellent distributor, excelling at finding the open man. Unfortunately against Houston, his teammates were unable to capitalize on many wide open looks.

During the game, the Jazz ran this same particular play over and over again to try and get Burke some open looks in order for him to find his rhythm: Burke pass to the wing, followed by him running under the rim to set a screen on the baseline, and he would finally curl on a screen by Jeremy Evans or Rudy Gobert to the weak side for an open shot. If his defender was able to fight through the screen quickly enough, Burke generally had enough space to work and create a shot for himself. He got good looks, but couldn’t capitalize and went 0-2 on this set play, as well as racked up two of his four total turnovers while running it.

He did not play against the Brooklyn Nets, his coach having chosen to give him a rest and keep him close to one of the scouts to really give him a chance to observe the offense they run. It is probably safe to say he will play against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday morning, but two games in, he is still looking to get in a rhythm offensively. Many of his shot attempts should begin falling according to history.

Defensively, like most NBA newcomers, he must bulk up and add strength to his build. He is very quick and moves his feet well when defending his man. He also has great defensive awareness, rarely losing sight of his man or sagging off too much. However, his size is his enemy at 6’1. Becoming a future All-Star isn’t impossible, but is definitely more an obstacle for someone of his size. He also gets caught in screens often, leading to his man getting open looks.

He is a promising young point guard with great potential. What history teaches us is that those who find the most success in the NBA have the best work ethics. Don’t let it come to a surprise to you if Burke goes far, because he works extremely hard.

Summer League Player Evaluation: Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams has had some intriguing stat-lines during his initial Summer League games. Here we breakdown the tape on his tendencies and what he will need to improve upon to reach his NBA potential.

Summer League Player Evaluation: Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond's impressive physical profile allowed him to have an excellent rookie season in limited minutes. This summer, Drummond is working with Hakeem Olajuwon to develop his post game while also improving his conditioning.

The Potential Rebirth Of Greg Oden

Greg Oden is attempting an NBA comeback. We outline how he would fit for the Spurs, Heat, Cavaliers, Celtics and Grizzlies, the five teams interested in signing him.

2013 NBA Finals Retrospective

Through the first five games of the series, we had noticed a trend that had developed: The winner of the points in the paint battle turned out to be the victor in that particular game. Game 6 and Game 7 went the other way.

Breaking Down The Epic Game 6

Down 10 and in desperate need of a run, Erik Spoelstra went with the lineup that initiated the 33-5 run for the Heat in Game 2: Maro Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, LeBron James and Chris Andersen. They scored on their first four possessions and opened up the floor.

Spurs Isolate, Defend Paint, Go Up 3-2

Prior to Game 5, the Heat were averaging 58.7 percent on shots in the paint in the series, going 81-for-138 as a team. In Game 5, the Spurs did an excellent job of defending the paint, allowing the Heat to convert on just 46.5 percent.

The Big Three Make It Best-Of-Three

It all started in the first quarter, with the Heat playing aggressively on defense and on offense with their modified starting lineup, aiming to play the way they play best: small.

Behind Spurs' Three-Point Explosion In Game 3

The Spurs took advantage of Miami’s lack of aggression and energy in Game 3 to get the shots they wanted instead of taking the shots the Heat wanted them to take: great ball movement led to great shot selection.

Behind Spoelstra's Successful Adjustments For Game 2

The two keys to the massive 33-5 run by the Heat were the pick-and-roll with LeBron James as the screener and Mario Chalmers being the primary ball-handler, and the lockdown defense they played in the second half, forcing 17 turnovers and converting them into 19 points.

How Spurs Can Defend LeBron

Who better to defend LeBron then a 225 pound, 6’7” defensive specialist with a 7’3” wingspan, quick feet, fast reflexes, and a high defensive IQ in Kawhi Leonard? But Gregg Popovich will also need to scheme ways to provide help for Leonard.
 

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