The Dallas Mavericks have done a masterful job at injecting youth into their roster over the last 12 months. But although they’ve added a lot of young, talented players with room to grow, not all of them project as future starters. At the moment, the Mavs’ starting lineup for next season figures to be Dennis Smith, Jr. (19), Wesley Matthews (30), Harrison Barnes (25), Dirk Nowitzki (39) and Nerlens Noel (23).
Assuming Matthews won’t be signed back at the end of his current contract in 2019, Dallas should be considering the many other possibilities for starting shooting guard.
Now, there’s a strong case to be made for Seth Curry taking Matthews’ place as a starter eventually, especially after his success in a starting role towards the end of last season. However, Curry will turn 27 in August, and if the Mavs do decide that they wanted to opt for a little more youth and potential at that position, perhaps they’d give Ben McLemore a hard look.
McLemore was the seventh overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2013 NBA Draft. Standing at 6’5”, weighing 195 pounds and possessing great athleticism, McLemore figured to be a lot better than has been during his four years with the Kings. Over those four years, he has averaged 9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in a little over 25 minutes per game. His highest scoring output came in his second year, when he averaged 12.1 points in nearly 33 minutes of play per game.
One of McLemore’s biggest strengths is something that can't be taught, and that’s his size and athleticism. Not only are his height and weight optimal for an NBA shooting guard, he also has a 6’8” wingspan, which helps him defend the perimeter capably.
On the other end of the court, although McLemore shot just 43 percent from the field last season, he shot a respectable 38-percent from beyond the arc.
At 24 years old, McLemore has yet to hit his prime and still has room to grow on both ends of the floor, and you’d have to think that putting him in a more stable environment like Dallas could work wonders for him going forward. Back in April, he gave Dallas an up-close glimpse of that potential:
McLemore has struggled both to create on offense and to defend consistently. Averaging only 1.2 assists per game for his career so far, he could definitely work on adding a little more to that area of his game. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t have to go out there and average a triple double, but raising that assist average to three or four per night would be huge. Playing in Rick Carlisle’s flow offense would likely help.
McLemore has all the tools to be a great defender, he just hasn’t been consistent enough on that end of the floor to reach that level. With all the dysfunction in Sacramento the last few years, can you really blame the guy for not being focused? I’m positive that between Carlisle and Matthews, McLemore would be one of the better defenders at his position in a few years.
Fit with the Mavericks
Considering the Mavs’ recent desire to get younger and more athletic, I feel like McLemore would be a good fit going forward. He's six years younger than Matthews and three years younger than Seth Curry, so if potential is something Dallas values going forward, McLemore leads the other two shooting guards in that category.
Another factor is the money. The Mavs would need to determine if there’s more value in signing the younger McLemore now or waiting to sign Curry to a new, more expensive deal next summer, because they can’t have both guys unless Wes is traded.
It was recently reported that the Kings will likely decline to extend a qualifying offer to McLemore this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent:
Sacramento Kings to decline extending qualifying offer to Ben McLemore and he'll become unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 28, 2017
Obviously, this would make it a lot easier for the Mavs to sign McLemore. Still, I think the likelihood of this move happening is quite low, since Dallas has two capable shooting guards and Devin Harris, who spends a lot of time at that position. But, you never really know what the front office is thinking, so anything is possible.