The Rockets will release reserve guard Ben McLemore, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Several title contenders are expected to show interest in the Houston sharpshooter, Charania reported Saturday.
Now 28 years old, McLemore averaged 7.4 points (33.1% on 3-pointers) in 16.8 minutes per game this season. The 6-foot-3 guard never found the consistent form or rotation role under head coach Stephen Silas that he did with Mike D’Antoni a season ago, when he averaged 10.1 points per game and shot 40.0% on 3-pointers. McLemore was a clear defensive liability as an undersized shooting guard, but his shooting was so elite that he was still a very productive player, overall.
McLemore also had the clear benefit in the 2019-20 season of playing alongside James Harden and Russell Westbrook, which got him plenty of open shots. For a rebuilding group like the 2020-21 Rockets without a clear superstar, those opportunities have been harder to come by. McLemore also contracted COVID-19 at the start of the regular season, which put him behind schedule with the new coaching staff.
With a contender, however, McLemore might be able to find a situation more analogous to the one in which he thrived a season ago.
The Rockets reportedly shopped McLemore before the March 25 trade deadline, but the combination of McLemore’s expiring contract and his subpar shooting numbers this season made it tough for a contender to justify giving up an asset to Houston to acquire him. Now, the Rockets are allowing him to move on and choose his next NBA stop.
McLemore is set to become a free agent after this season, so he wasn’t believed to be a long-term fit in Houston, regardless. General manager Rafael Stone indicated in recent days that the Rockets plan to spend more of their 2020-21 mid-level exception (MLE) on a signing (or signings) later this season, and the open roster spot from McLemore’s release means that could happen sooner rather than later.