Minnesota Timberwolves Draft Prospect: Ben McLemore

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Ben McLemore, University of Kansas

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Positives: Ben McLemore and the Timberwolves are different in that McLemore can shoot, and the Timberwolves can’t. Currently, the Timberwolves are 30th in the league in three point shooting and 24th in free throw percentage. What’s this? Oh, McLemore shot 41.6% this season at Kansas. That’s cool, but can he make his– he made 87% of his free throws, too?! And, good grief, 55% from the field, Ben McLemore? Stop. This is just too good to be true. Well, with the projected seventh pick in the draft it sort of is too good to be true.

On the other side of the ball, McLemore possesses a 6’7.5 wingspan to go with his 6’4 frame, which is good, and enables to help him defend the two guard possession well in college, and should mostly translate to the NBA as well. It helps having good instincts, which by all accounts he does, and would also fill the need of a two-way guard that can play big minutes.

Negatives: A major knock on McLemore is that he is not a strong ballhandler and while that is something that can certainly be improved considering his age, it may make for a frustrating few early years for McLemore as he adapts to going up against bigger, faster and stronger players than he faced in college. Because of his poor ball skills, he struggles to create his own shot and shoot off the dribble. This is also a potential worry if his shot isn’t falling and what he is going to do to keep the offense from stagnating. We’ve seen young guards get taken out of games on nights when their shots aren’t falling, and McLemore is going to have to be able to do other things to get involved in the offense if his shot isn’t falling.

Bottom Line: McLemore already has a nice base of offensive skills at a relatively young age, and while he needs to improve on some things, also seems to have some good basketball instincts to aid him. After all, ask Anthony Randolph, you can’t teach things like awareness and instinct. Defensively, I don’t expect him to be elite because his physical tools are just good and not great for the NBA. Actually, I’d say that his ceiling sounds like a starter on a playoff team, but if he’s your best player life may not be so good.

Timberwolves Fit: Considering how awry this season has gone for the Timberwolves and how you could make the case that they probably shouldn’t even be here, getting McLemore would be some serious good fortune for the Timberwolves. He fits two needs: an uber athletic two that can shoot and play some defense. With a point guard like Ricky Rubio he would be able to be a knockdown shooter as he develops his ballhandling skills and the two could also potentially make a formidable tandem in the backcourt on defense. Even if he can’t create well for himself now, as long as he can be average at moving without the ball Rubio will set him up for good looks, which we can guess McLemore would hit since he was so efficient from within the arc in college.

It’s probably a dream to think that the Timberwolves move up high enough or fall low enough to get McLemore, but if either somehow happened, it would go a long way to further brighten the Timberwolves’ future.