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Saturday, June 22, 2013

McLemore sliding before Thursday’s NBA draft

Phoenix Suns draft prospect Ben McLemore, of Kansas, speaks with the media, Wednesday, June 5, 2013, in Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns draft prospect Ben McLemore, of Kansas, speaks with the media, Wednesday, June 5, 2013, in Phoenix.

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As it stands today, the experts say Ben McLemore could go as high as No. 2 to Orlando — as low as No. 5 to Phoenix — in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I don’t put any thought into that (draft order). Whoever picks me, I’ve got to go in there and do what I’m supposed to do,” McLemore, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Kansas University, told DraftExpress.com — a website that, along with nbadraft.net, has the 20-year-old St. Louis native being chosen second by the Magic.

“I am a Miami Heat fan, but I really don’t have a team I really want to go to and play for,” McLemore stated recently.

More than one expert has said McLemore’s stock has been dropping because of sub-par workouts for Cleveland, Orlando and Phoenix. ESPN’s Chad Ford and Sheridan Hoops’ Joe Kotoch, in fact, both have McLemore headed to the Suns at No. 5.

“His lack of preparation for the draft is hurting him,” Ford writes at ESPN.com. “Multiple sources told me that his workout in Phoenix was not impressive; he wasn’t in shape, and he struggled to keep up in the workout. I heard similar things in Orlando. McLemore is in a tug-of-war right now between adviser Rodney Blackstock and his agency, Rivals. It’s kept McLemore out of the gym and, for the most part, out of workouts. How much will all of this affect the draft stock? I’m told teams are worried. But how worried? Enough for one of the most talented players in the draft to slide further?”

Kotoch wrote: “McLemore’s troubles stem from his inner circle and poor conditioning. McLemore has not been impressive at workouts in Phoenix or Cleveland. One executive who watched McLemore said ‘Jamaal Franklin looked like a better prospect than him, and he’s still recovering from a sprained ankle.’”

One NBA front-office official — who also could not speak on the record in accordance with league rules — told the Journal-World that McLemore appeared “pudgy” at a recent workout and might be 10 pounds overweight.

“He was struggling after 15 minutes,” the official said. “He could slide down (Thursday). I hear no further than 7 to 10, but there’s a chance he could slide because of some of this stuff (including the inexperience of his first-year adviser, Blackstock).”

The NBA official said at one point Cleveland was leaning toward taking McLemore at No. 1 overall, but had since changed its mind. He said it would be hard to imagine the Suns passing on him at No. 5, recent concerns notwithstanding.

Until Cleveland says otherwise, there’s still a chance McLemore could be the first true shooting guard since David Thompson in 1975 — and second Jayhawk of all time (Danny Manning, 1988) — selected No. 1 overall.

The Cavs, however, are said to be happy with 2-guard Dion Waiters, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, thus may select one of two big men — Maryland’s Alex Len or Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.

Orlando, which picks second, could draft McLemore and insert him in the starting lineup. The current starter is Aaron Afflalo, with Doron Lamb and E’Twaun Moore the backups.

At this point, nothing is out of the question. McLemore could become KU’s second No. 1 pick in history, first No. 2 pick of all-time, first No. 3 pick since Raef LaFrentz in 1998, first No. 4 selection since Drew Gooden in 2002, first No. 5 since Thomas Robinson in 2012, first No. 6 since Walt Wesley in 1966 or first No. 7 since Kirk Hinrich in 2003 (Wilt Chamberlain, by the way, was territorial pick of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959).

“McLemore can absolutely shoot the ball, and he’s one of the best athletes in the draft,” Ryan Blake, the NBA’s senior director of scouting, told the Elyria (Ohio) Chronicle-Telegram. “He can score inside a la Dwyane Wade,and he’s smooth like Ray Allen. And he can defend.

“He could be that Dwyane Wade or Ray Allen type. If that’s what you come down to — at best Dwyane Wade and at worst Ray Allen — that’s not bad. He came in so confident, and he’s worked so hard to get where he is. He’s not going to stop working. He has that spark. This guy is going to continue to get better.”

McLemore hasn’t shied from the comparisons to the Miami Heat’s Allen. He has embraced them.

“I think that’s a pretty valid comparison,” McLemore told Orlando’s aXis Magazine. “He’s one of the best shooters in NBA history, so I’ve tried to watch how he does the little things and also how he shoots the ball so I can learn more.”

One knock on McLemore is, he’s viewed as a player unwilling to take over games. On the other hand, he played just one year of college basketball after practicing a year and, at the age of 20, obviously could grow into that role.

“I think so,” KU coach Bill Self said, asked if McLemore has the makeup to become more aggressive. “He’s done it with us. He’s improved. People look at what he did from an aggressiveness standpoint, but don’t realize where he started from an aggressiveness standpoint. He’s a little bit of maturity away. He’ll get that through strength training, through repetition. Coaches and teammates will be very demanding of him. I don’t think that’s the issue. You want to draft talent first and foremost and a great kid. He fits that criteria. He’ll have to get a little nastier. There’s a lot of things people have to work on when you get to a certain level. He’ll address it and work on it. I’d rather teach him that than how to shoot, because we all know he can shoot.”

McLemore said: “Being young (last year at KU), you don’t want to mess up. Also, we had four seniors who I looked up to a lot. I learned from them my freshman year, when I had to sit out. They did so much for me. It was different the next year seeing I had to be leading scorer for the team.”

McLemore has been invited to the Green Room for the draft, ESPN reported Saturday night.

Other potential KU draftees: Jeff Withey could be selected as early as No. 21 by Utah, an NBA official told the Journal-World. “He protects the basket by blocking shots,” the official said. ... Travis Releford played well at workouts and may now be a second-round pick. “I hear he’s late 40s,” the NBA official said. “The Lakers (18th pick second round) would like to have a big guard like him. I’d say it’s 50-50 whether he gets drafted.” ... Elijah Johnson will not be drafted, the NBA official said. “He’s not on the radar. There’s some concern about his knee. If he asked me, I’d tell him to go to Spain and Italy and call it a day, make all that money over there tax-free.” Johnson worked out for Portland for a second time Saturday. ... Europe also figures to be the landing point of Kevin Young. ... Look for the Brooklyn Nets possibly to deal Tyshawn Taylor, the NBA official told the J-W. “The Nets like Isaiah Canaan of Murray State,” he said.

Withey in Indy: Withey on Saturday had his 14th and final individual workout, for the Indiana Pacers. “I have a pretty big range of where I might go,” he told the Pacers’ site on nba.com. “I’ve heard anything from 15 to 30. At the same time, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m blessed to be traveling as much as I am.”

Comments

jhawk1998 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Reprinting nearly the entirety of previously published articles by Chad Ford make not good journalism. If Gary is going to write something he should be required to get his own stuff and not second-source another journalist's opinion. If you confirm this information yourself and want to write an article like this fine but just regurgitating another reporter's work is lazy. No wonder no one buys the paper anymore.

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Allen Shepard 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Lost 95% of my sympathy for him after hearing the Heat thing...

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Joan Kalivoda 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Ku's players are overrated, just like Selby.

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justanotherfan 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Every year someone slides because of "poor pre draft workouts" or "bad medical reports." This year it happens to be Ben. Thing is, it doesn't matter.

Ben is going to get drafted in the top 10, probably by a team with a severe need for his scoring ability. If he works hard and puts up big numbers, where he got drafted will be a footnote in his career, much like Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade and others. If he doesn't work hard, or if he's not quite talented enough, or can't stay healthy, where he got drafted will be the only story, like Darko Milicic, Michael Olowakandi, or others.

Which brings us to Jeff Withey. He's probably going to end up at the end of the first round, or maybe into the second. He's just not physical enough or strong enough to play center in the NBA. He struggled against physical players in college. That is literally all he will see in the NBA. My guess is he plays a year or two in the D-League before making an impact in the rotation at the pro level.

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Ralster Jayhawk 10 months ago

What's wrong with being a Miami Heat fan? Man, have you seen their Dancer girls?...(wow!)

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kerbyd 10 months ago

Speaking of agent wannabes, how is Jay-Z doing these days?

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FearlessJayhawk 10 months ago

If I was Ben, I would try to get drafted by a team that has the best shot of winning a championship ring. The problem with high draft choices, they tend to get picked by teams without a chance of doing anything. Things worked out perfect for Mario Chalmers.

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Jason Keller 10 months ago

That would be awesome if Phoenix took him at 5.

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Jay Dogger 10 months ago

I'm not really concerned about when Ben gets drafted, especially re: money since he will make considerably more than me at a considerably younger age. I just hope he plays well.

I'm also not sold on a guard who can't dribble well going top-5. I think KU will do just fine whether he is draft 1st, 5th or 10th.

However, I really hope Releford get a shot at the NBA, whether 2nd round or via free agency. I feel like he could be a decent niche player. He's got a lotta skillz, just not a high ceiling.

Best of luck to all our Jayhawks.

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dallashawk05 10 months ago

He is a Miami Heat fan... I think all young players are it seems.

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JHWKDW 10 months ago

Its all on you Ben whether you sink or swim!

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William Blake 10 months ago

I understand the argument to throw college players right away into the draft to guarantee they get at least one good payday (when they are an obvious 1st-round pick) but I rarely agree with pushing them out there too fast.

Andrew will (most likely) be the exception for me. But I am betting he is well-rounded beyond his physicality... his parents are giving him an education in the realities of a being a professional athlete. Not many college players get that help from someone they can trust.

Ben needed another year of college ball to better establish what his game is. No one knows if he can "take over a game"... or if he is an immediate threat with penetration... etc. etc. Another year of college ball would have given him the time to find out who he is and excel where his talents fit. We know he can hit the trey (for example) but he didn't show much of an ability to get himself open when up against medium-quality D1 defense. Screens were often set, but he didn't know how to use them.

The whole Blackstock story just shows how he needed to mentally mature more before making the jump to the league. Blackstock doesn't have the knowledge or resources to help any player in the draft.

I hope he goes high and gets with the right situation because he is going to need a break and I hope he makes the best of his opportunity, because the real shot usually only comes around once or twice. I can't believe he isn't spending every breathing moment in a gym now (and with good coaches/trainers). If he is showing up to team sessions and he's out of shape, that may very well hurt his position.

And when BMac gets his chance, he'll have to work his rear off to get somewhere. The only part of his game that has some polishing on it is his jumper. The other 90% of basketball he is yet to learn. Even though my comment sounds bleak for BMac, I didn't mention he has tremendous upside and can make it if he works hard enough and gets with the right people. Does he know that? Who knows... maybe he just sees that one big fat paycheck coming his way and thinks his life is now set. One big paycheck will not set him up for the rest of his life.

I hope the gamble to leave early pays off for BMac. He's a good kid, no question about his heart being in the right place. I just wonder where his brain is.

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canuckhawk 10 months ago

A small slide only costs a "little" money on the first contract. The way your really lose money is getting yourself in a rotten situation for your rookie years and then your second contract is absent or much, much smaller and over few years than you could have otherwise received.

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yovoy 10 months ago

BMac looks out of shape and is struggling in workouts due to his "other" activities "in da' club"...wasting money that's not his (yet), and "other" behavior that will make you look, feel, and perform poorly the day after. Hard to go from being a have-not to a have and to still make "good" decisions. I hope he gets it sorted out.

Teams draft on "potential", and BMac has it, so where he falls might surprise a few people. Best of luck to him.

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Jim Baker 10 months ago

As I recall, Paul Pierce slid all the way to #10. Things seemed to have worked out pretty good for him. Ben's talent will make him as much cash as he can possibly make.

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akgjenkintown 10 months ago

Gary, What happened to Kevin Young playing in Puerto Rico? I shared an airplane with KJ months ago and I thought he was on his way to sign a contract.

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jaybate 10 months ago

The longer the significantly unattributed story goes on, the more the significantly unattributed story seems possibly to be about Chad Ford.

Where are all the other reporters flocking to and covering his remarkable, but seemingly improbable story about a highly rated player improbably sliding in the draft for apparently improbable reasons, according to significantly unattributed sources?

If Ben really were showing poorly at workouts, wouldn't a shooting slump, or injury, be a more likely trigger than lack of fitness induced by a Svengali agent relationship?

And why would a Svengali agent who stands to make much more out of a physically fit and peak performing Ben, influence Ben into not staying fit and focused?

Chad Ford's apparent angle so far does not seem to square.

And his persistent reliance on significantly unattributed sources for negative takes leaves an impression of a smear campaign.

But why would Chad Ford want to smear a potential high NBA draft choice, and potential NBA star and product endorser from an Adidas school and risk losing access to Ben and KU and incurring Adidas wrath?

What kind of relationship might Chad Ford have that might make him report a player from an Adidas school is sliding improbably based on significantly unattributed sources?

Put another way, who might not want an Adidas school to produce two straight number 1 draft choices?

Dang, ya got me.

:-)

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KEITHMILES05 10 months ago

Ben sticks with Blackstock due his mommy being very,very,very,very,very closely involved with the guy. Ben is a follower and not leader. It's him momma who is messing up Ben.

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jayhawkinATL 10 months ago

p>Nbadraft.net still has BMac at no. 2. All this talk of BMac "sliding" is comical. Speaking of sliding, nbadraft.net has Nerlens going no. 5 to PHX and Len going no. 1.

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Michael Pannacciulli 10 months ago

Blackstock will cost Ben millions, and the University even more in collateral damage. Not a fan of this man.

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justinryman 10 months ago

Sliding in the draft only cost you money, I know money is money and money makes the world go 'round. But falling to a team that already has a few more pieces than Orlando probably wouldn't be a bad thing.

Top picks are expected to turn a team around in one year no matter how much surrounding talent they have. But go to a team that has a few other players and things can happen.

No back to that money thing, I seemed to drop a nickle around here anyone seen it?

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Janet Scott 10 months ago

I heard circus music playing softly in the background as I read this article.

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JayHawkFanToo 10 months ago

Amazing. Blackstock might end up costing McLemore millions; the difference in pay between #1 and #5 is $1.5M per year, not including the potential 20% premium that a good agent can negotiate. Over the first 3 year contract, this is over $5M, and the relationship might end up hurting KU as well.

Come on Ben, wake up and smell the coffee, Blackstock is using you to get into the business and in the process you are the one losing the money. Get rid of the leach and go with a reputable agent that will protect your interest rather than his.

Blackstock might also have gotten UNC in trouble with his relationship with PJ Hairston and his ongoing legal problems.

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Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

Wait a minute? I thought coach Hudy has prepared him well. Perhaps KU's men don't get trained hard enough in physical endurance? Calling Fort Riley... here they come..

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Andy Tweedy 10 months ago

This happens every year in the draft, people talking trash about high draft picks. And you really never know what is real and what is just made up to make other teams blink. In fact, I remember very well that it happened to Raef when he was coming out. There was all kinds of noise that he was sliding in the draft, and he ended up at number 3. I guess my point is simply don't believe a word of this until it actually happens.

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jhawkrulz 10 months ago

Sometimes I'm amazed.

I hear you can't coach 7 feet. Withey is that with pretty decent shot and a good free throw percentage. I would risk a shot on him.

I don't quite get how noel can't practice and he jumps up, but McLemore does and his stock drops. I still am a conspiracy theorist on this. Espn needs the players to spend a year in college, one to better the marketing, 2 to get their hat ceremonies. If noel falls, more pressure will be on the nba, if he still goes top three, no damage and everyone is happy, except the team that drafts a player with his second knee injury.

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Stephan123 10 months ago

Coach Self's comments are spot on.

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