The Sacramento Kings’ NBA season doesn’t start until tomorrow against the Denver Nuggets, but that’s no reason not to make season predictions. The NBA season is finally upon us and fans get excited about their teams before the eventual letdown of the season. The Kings fans actually have some hope of a somewhat successful season and a lot of that depends on rookie Ben McLemore.
Heading into the new season I can only see two legitimate contenders for the NBA Rookie of the Year award: Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore. Oladipo is in fact a better all-around player thus far, but McLemore is not far behind. Oladipo has better passing ability and a better read on the game while McLemore is a better scorer and rebounder. The challenges that face the former Hoosier are far greater than those facing the new King. Firstly, McLemore plays on a better team and plays in his preferred 2-guard position while Oladipo plays on an inferior team and has been moved to the 1. Not having a better team could stunt Oladipo’s growth and affect his numbers and for that reason, I give the edge to McLemore.
Having a center of DeMarcus Cousins’ caliber will help McLemore get open jump shots on the perimeter. For someone who has one of the most natural jump shots, a free release should set him up to have many dominant scoring games. McLemore is an underrated defender as well. His 42-inch vertical leaping ability allows separation on jump shots, but also to put pressure on shooters on the opposite end of the court.
The rookie out of Kansas has averaged 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds on less than 24 minutes of play in the preseason. To win the Rookie of the Year award, McLemore would have to up his game on the offensive end of the court. Getting to around 15 points per game would definitely ensure he gets the award.
Four of the last five NBA Rookie of the Year winners have been guards and that bodes well for the former Jayhawk as well. This could mean nothing at all or it could mean that guards have an easier time adjusting to the league given the one-year-removed-from-high-school rule. It is far more difficult for a big man to have a refined game coming out of college. As one of the few NBA ready talents out of the draft, McLemore has a leg up on the competition barring injury.
Four of the top 10 draft picks, including Nerlens Noel and Trey Burke, will go into the season not completely recovered from injuries. McLemore would do well to stay off the injury list.
Kings fans are in for a surprise season. I believe this team will make strides to get out of the basement of the NBA and onto the road to respectability. A huge part of that turnaround will be rookie Ben McLemore, who is poised to contribute right away.