Ben McLemore’s third NBA season is off to a sluggish start.
The seventh overall pick in 2013 is seeing his role diminish, partly because of his play and partly because the Kings actually have options at his position, shooting guard.
He’s started all four games this season, but he’s averaged only 18.8 minutes and shot 28.6 percent (6 of 21). In Tuesday’s 103-89 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, he made 1 of 5 shots and had two points in 20 minutes.
“I’m not overreacting, but in the same sense, I think everybody’s got to understand playmaking is a part of the style we want to play,” coach George Karl said. “Good decisions and you’ve got to make good plays when the opportunity presents itself, and Ben is struggling in that area.”
McLemore played only 10 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. After DeMarcus Cousins left because of a strained right Achilles’ tendon, Karl put Darren Collison in McLemore’s spot to start the second half, and McLemore didn’t play again.
“It was my decision, not Ben’s play, that I didn’t play him in the second half,” Karl said. “And with the depth I have at (shooting guard) and different options I have, I just felt I had to have my playmakers on the court when DeMarcus didn’t play.”
Karl mentioned confidence while discussing what McLemore needs to get on track. The coach said it shouldn’t be assumed McLemore or any player is confident in his game every night.
Good decisions and you’ve got to make good plays when the opportunity presents itself, and Ben is struggling in that area.
Kings coach George Karl on guard Ben McLemore
“(Confidence is) a fleeting personality that a lot of NBA players, great NBA players struggle with every once in a while,” Karl said.
Passing and defense – Entering the season, the Kings’ concerns included passing and defense.
The passing is coming along. Entering Monday, the Kings were tied for sixth in the league with 23.3 assists per game.
Still, Karl sees flaws.
“We don’t trust the pass enough,” he said. “Even though we have a good statistical number of assists ... we take too many home run swings on passes and not enough singles.”
Defensively, Karl might simplify his strategy. Transition defense, a major worry before the season, hasn’t been bad, Karl said.
“It’s our pick-and-roll defense and a little bit of our conceptual decisions maybe on my part,” he said.
31.3 Ben McLemore’s field-goal percentage through the season’s first three games
Depth – With Cousins sidelined Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies and Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns, Karl said seldom-used reserves Eric Moreland and Quincy Acy could be called upon.
“I trust Eric and Quincy to play short minutes,” Karl said. “If we have to play them short minutes, I think we’ll be OK.”
On Tuesday, Moreland played four minutes, and Acy didn’t play.