With Ben McLemore, you're getting Pippen, not Jordan
JUN 04, 2013 10:27a ET
The great ones make it look easy. McLemore can thread a needle from 25 feet out as if it were a layup. The former Kansas star doesn’t fly; he levitates above humanity on calves cut straight from Hogwarts.
His forehead scrapes rims. His smile lights up a room. This is smooth and salt and earth, all in the same package. This is a nice, nice kid.
Too nice, in fact.
You know your Michael Jordan types? The kind of cat who wants to reach in your chest, pull out your heart and shove it in front of your face while it’s still beating.
You’re not getting that.
You’re getting Scottie Pippen. Insanely gifted. Crazy good. Not an Alpha Dog.
As a Jayhawk, McLemore deferred to Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, his seniors and mentors. It’s not that the St. Louis native didn’t have a killer instinct, somewhere, buried deep down inside that affable soul. It’s that coach Bill Self often had to grab a set of jumper cables in order to try to bring it to the fore.
Gifted, Self loves. But mean, tough and ornery, he respects.
You’re getting oodles of the former.
The latter, well, that’s a wait-and-see.
But know this: The 6-foot-5 McLemore will be a very, very good pro wherever he lands in the NBA Draft this month, and it’s hard to see him landing anywhere other than among the first four selections held by Cleveland, Orlando, Washington and Charlotte, respectively.
He’s 20. If the ceiling isn’t the moon, it’s the stars beyond it.
But know this, too: The fit has to be right. You’re getting a wing with a tendency to wallflower. During the NCAA Tournament, Air Ben averaged just 11 points per contest, and the Jayhawks went home in the regional semis, felled by cold-hearted daggers launched from the cold-hearted wrists of Michigan’s Trey Burke. McLemore may have a Jordan body, but Burke is the one with the Jordan mindset.
Within the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse, McLemore averaged 18.8 points per game and drained 46.1 percent of his treys. On road courts, those numbers dipped to 13.9 and 34.1 respectively. He shot the rock at a .345 clip in the Big Dance, and wound up 4-of-16 from beyond the arc.
The tea leaves seem to shift toward the Cavs tapping Kentucky center Nerlens Noel with the No. 1 pick, but it could be a scramble after that. The Magic seem to be a more logical McLemore destination at first blush, given that Orlando has the second selection and a veteran point guard in Jameer Nelson under contract through 2015. Nor does it hurt that the franchise’s coach, Jacque Vaughn, happens to be one of the most venerated point guards in Jayhawks history.
"The Orlando Magic, I think that's a great program," McLemore told the Orlando Sentinel last Thursday. "I think I could fit perfectly in that system and that organization and help that team in different kinds of ways."
He will be deadly, but the silent deadly. Air Ben is a pillar, and yet it’s hard to picture him comfortably holding up the fort alone. What McLemore is, you can’t teach. The trouble is, you can say the same darned thing about what he isn’t.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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