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Should the Trail Blazers Invite Ben McLemore Back?

The nomadic guard was helpful in a down year. Should Portland offer him a longer-term home?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season has come to an end. The summer ahead will hold plenty of decisions for the club. They put 27 difference players on the court during the regular season. Not all are still with the team, but enough are that there’s no way the Blazers could retain them all...if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but asterisks abound despite the dismal performance.

Into this question-filled swamp stride Dave Deckard and Dia Miller with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player, then decide whether they would keep or yeet (toss) the player in the coming year. Performance, fit, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are all open for discussion.

Today we begin our run through a long list of bench players, starting with the reserve who got the most overall minutes on the floor: Ben McLemore. He played in 64 games, starting 6, with an average of 10.2 points—nearly a career high—and 0.9 assists in 20.1 minutes per. Is that enough to keep him on the squad?

Dave: So far we’ve had pretty easy decisions, as both Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic are probably coming back to Portland no matter what we think. But now we get our first toughie. Ben McLemore. He’s a good outside shooter and played a bigger role than anyone anticipated in this year of injuries, but was he productive and important enough to be brought back for another run next year? What say you?

Dia: How many of these guys can I say “keep” before I get fired? Let’s push the limits. I say keep. Ben has been one of the most consistent vets we have had in a season of uncertainty. There is an aspect of this exercise that’s tricky because depending on what moves are made and who is retained and who is moved. But barring anything crazy, I say keep.

Dave: This, my friend, is where we diverge. I appreciate what McLemore did for the team this season. He stepped in and played hard. He’ll also be available on a small contract, which is another tick in the “Keep” ledger. But he’ll turn 30 next season. His main weapon is the three-pointer and, given a comparative feast this season (417 attempts, 11.7 per 36 minutes), he still shot 36.2% beyond the arc. That’s not a bad number, but it’s Jerami Grant territory, not Seth Curry. He produced points, but his defense isn’t special. There’s no strong reason to keep or yeet him, really. But the Blazers need some drastic change. For me, that means if there’s no strong reason to keep, it’s yeet.

What do you love most about him?

Dia: McLemore is one of those guys that I just love to watch. I’m not sure I can put a finger on It. I find when I photograph basketball, I’m always drawn to one or two players. It’s not always the “star”, in fact, It usually isn’t. It has something to do with the way a player carries himself on the court, and how he moves during his game play. Ben McLemore was that player for me. I love to watch him play basketball. To be fair, you make solid points. And I know you’re going to make me let people go. But I don’t know if I can let go of him yet.

Dave: You don’t have to let anyone go! That’s the beauty of the exercise. Although I will point out that the Blazers suited up 27 players this season. That’s TWO rosters, Dia!

I understand what you mean by “watch-ability”. McLemore has that star thing going for him. It’s evident in the way he moves and shoots. But he’s not enough of a star to crack the top of the rotation, and at this point, I’m more interested in refilling the pipeline of young players than retaining a veteran who has that sparkle quality, but will fill a role that won’t allow it to matter. For me, this is still a yeet.

What about you, readers? Is it keep or yeet for Mr. McLemore in your estimation? Register your thoughts in the comment section below!

Our story so far...

Anfernee Simons: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Jusuf Nurkic: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Ben McLemore: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep