The Kings gave Ben McLemore every opportunity to play a lot of minutes to end his rookie season in 2013-14.
McLemore finished last season as the starting shooting guard. It’s not like the Kings had a choice.
After trading Marcus Thornton and releasing Jimmer Fredette, there weren’t any other off guards.
Naturally with more playing time and experience, McLemore’s production picked up. He averaged 32.8 minutes in 29 games after the All-Star break after registering 23.3 minutes per game in his first 53 games.
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His scoring went from 7.6 points per game to 10.9 after the game and his shooting percentage increased from .366 to .389.
But that didn’t change the fact the Kings needed another off guard. So to the surprise of many, the Kings selected Nik Stauskas with their first round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Drafting the same position two years in a row is usually viewed as a team saying “We messed up!” the previous year. The Kings insist that’s not the case.
The Kings needed shooting and Stauskas was the best shooter in their opinion.
But McLemore shouldn’t feel completely comfortable.
Stauskas arrives as more than a shooter. He’s also seen as a good ballhandler, which might be McLemore’s biggest shortcoming on offense.
McLemore shot just 32 percent from three-point range as a rookie. If Stauskas can be more consistent from beyond the arc and be more of a playmaker off the dribble, he could cut into McLemore’s playing time or supplant him as the starting shooting guard.
But the situation is far from clear cut.
Both players are still young. That means you can still expect mistakes. And with the addition of Ramon Sessions, who along with Ray McCallum could play in two lead-guard sets, neither McLemore or Stauskas should feel comfortable expecting extended minutes.
While the Kings do want their two young guards to develop, they don’t have to stick with them if it means losing games.
McLemore has to show he’s improved his ballhandling and ability to make plays off the dribble. His athleticism is wasted if all he does is stand on the perimeter and waits for jump shots, especially if he’s shooting in the low 30-percent range on three pointers.
McLemore should have an edge over Stauskas defensively after a year in the league but it’s an area the Kings also want to see improvement.
Stauskas will have his ups-and-downs as a rookie. There was a lot to like about him during summer league.
Stauskas showed toughness, good basketball smarts and the ability to be a multifaceted player on offense. He also reminded us he’s a rookie and will need get stronger to defend at a high level and deal with the physical nature of the NBA on offense.
Youth will have plenty of chances to standout at shooting guard this season. But unlike the end of last season, there will be plenty of options if the pitfalls of youth lead to losses.