Houston Rockets: How Ben McLemore has found his groove

Houston Rockets Ben McLemore (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Ben McLemore (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

In spite of being labeled by most basketball experts as a bust through his first few seasons in the league, Houston Rockets guard Ben McLemore has recently managed to make quite the home for himself in Clutch City.

Over a year ago, Houston Rockets shooting guard Ben McLemore found himself in a state of aghast after receiving some unfortunate news that would alter the course of his professional basketball journey forever.

The 26-year-old — who starred for six different coaches through his first six NBA seasons — was placed on waivers after playing in 19 games during his second stint with the Sacramento Kings.

Without any team or roster spot to call his own, the former lottery pick, whose game once evoked comparisons to Ray Allen, was forced to return back to the lab and watch as fellow draft classmates passed him by.

During a recent interview with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, McLemore explained how he’s been able to push through the adversity.

“If I didn’t have my support system, who knows if I would still be in the league…I locked myself in the gym. I told myself that if you love this game, you have to know you did everything you could. And I love this game dirty.”

Now, McLemore’s fortitude and work behind the scenes is starting to pay off, as the player who has underwent a career full of early twists and turns has managed to salvage it en route to carving out a quality role for himself in H-Town.

Season-high 28 PTS.
Career-high 8 3PM.@BenMcLemore catches fire from beyond the arc, sparking the @HoustonRockets road win! #OneMission pic.twitter.com/g06dzzyB0v

— NBA (@NBA) December 6, 2019


McLemore — who signed with the Rockets on a two-year, $4,4 million deal last summer — averaged 12.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field through the first six games in January.

As if this weren’t impressive enough, he also knocked down a career-best 43 percent of his shots from beyond the arc during that same span. The 6’5″, 195-pound standout has recently emerged from the shadows to become Mike D’Antoni’s grandest restoration project to date in a system that is designed to take advantage of his renown shooting prowess.

During a recent interview with Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated, Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas spoke about how McLemore has corrected one of his biggest struggles: confidence.

“One thing we really worked on with [McLemore] is his confidence,” Lucas explained.

“He’s a classic example of a guy who doesn’t make it the first couple of times, where every shot is the weight of the world. He’s now progressing to where he knows he’s not going to make all of them…we’ve worked to get him to where he is now and he’s really a nice player for us.

Although it remains to be seen how long McLemore can continue his current hot stretch from the floor, one could seek to make the argument that the ex-Kansas product is arguably the most vital component to Houston’s offensive attack this season.

He’s accomplished this in spite of entering the 2019-20 season with a partially guaranteed contract, as the man who dons No. 16 has proven himself to be an ideal safety valve when opposing teams look to immediately trap James Harden.

Be it on the ball…

This is maybe Ben McLemore’s best play of the whole season. And C-Webb is right, he never would have had the patience and confidence to make it before this year. pic.twitter.com/xpmWx2aoNG

— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) January 10, 2020

Or off the ball…

.@BenMcLemore now with 14pts! pic.twitter.com/nQ1r9CD8U0

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 23, 2019

In conjunction to working extensively to help create scoring opportunities as an active cutter in the lane, McLemore had the Houston Rockets boasting a 117.3 offensive rating per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor heading into Saturday night’s loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Should the following trends continue, there’s a strong chance that McLemore will likely maintain his place within the rotation.

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Not only that, McLemore has further illustrated how fit and continuity within a specific system are equally truly important, as he has worked his way from earning a fully guaranteed spot to a slot in Houston’s starting lineup. It’s clear that McLemore has finally found his groove.