When Nerlens Noel went down with a torn ACL this past February, the top prospect for the 2013 NBA draft pretty much became a two-man race between Ben McLemore of Kansas and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. Ultimately, Smart opted to return to Oklahoma for another season which left McLemore to be the last man standing.
Then something odd happened, McLemore started sliding, and the banged up Noel regained his position as the top prospect in the draft despite the fact that he hasn’t played a game in over four months.
So why did McLemore slide? After all, he does having all the attributes one would hope to find in a cornerstone level player. He’s just 20-years old, he’s got a beautiful stroke (with NBA range intact), extremely athletic, and shows excellent defensive potential.
Here’s why, McLemore although possesses all of the quality traits one would want to see in superstar prospect, he’s missing one key component to his game “Heart.”
“Just coming from nowhere, coming from nothing, just being able to have the opportunity get a number one spot is just a blessing,” Ben McLemore told reporters in May. “I’m going to work for it the same way as [Noel]. He’s going to work for it, and I’m going to work for it. It definitely is neck-and-neck.”
His work ethic hasn’t been very obvious thus far. According to multiple reports, McLemore’s workout with the Suns was unimpressive at best. He was out of shape, he barely kept up with the workouts, and he refused to workout against fellow shooting guard prospects Victor Oladipo and Shabazz Muhammad.
The NBA is a league for competitors. If one were to look at some of the NBA greats, those guys are some of the greatest competitors we will ever witness in our lifetime. From a personal point of view, I haven’t seen that McLemore.
Granted McLemore has great talents and a beautiful stroke, but during his one year at Kansas, he seemed to live and die by his jump shot. In the 17 games that McLemore did not shoot better than 50% from three-point land, he averaged just 12.2 points on 39% shooting from the field. Those are some red flags. McLemore has also had five games throughout the season in which he failed to attempt even a single free-throw; there were also two games where he shot just two foul shots.
While McLemore could potentially become the next great NBA player, it’s imminent that the “Heart” Trait of the great superstars seem to be absent in McLemore. On the flip side, as Charles Barkley described the Suns, the Suns are the Titanic and perhaps Ryan McDonough will need to swing for the fence in this year’s draft.