Ben McLemore reacts to release, thanks Houston for his tenure

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When 6-foot-3 guard Ben McLemore signed with the Houston Rockets before the 2019-20 season, he was simply trying to hang on in the NBA. Despite being the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, McLemore was only able to snag $50,000 in guaranteed money at the time.

Over the ensuing season, though, McLemore proved to be an ideal fit with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni. He shot 40.0% on 3-pointers at a lofty rate of 6.4 attempts per game, making him one of the league’s top shooters. That season re-established much of McLemore’s value around the NBA, and since he’s set to become a free agent in the 2021 offseason, he’s understandably appreciative for the career revival.

Hours after Houston released McLemore on Saturday — a move designed to allow McLemore to sign with a contender — the 28-year-old took to Instagram to express his appreciation. He wrote:

Houston!!! Thank you. I appreciate everyone of you… the fans, the front office, the coaches, trainers, and my brothers that I was fortunate enough to share the court with. I’m forever grateful for the memories made and the impact my time with the Rockets had on me as a player, and as a person.

The Rockets weren’t likely to re-sign McLemore as a free agent. Given his skillset as a 3-point specialist with defensive deficiencies, he would seem to be a better fit for a contending team, where it’s easier for him to be limited to a specific role that plays to his strengths. Thus, with the trade deadline having already elapsed, Houston is effectively doing McLemore a favor by allowing him to join a contender earlier than expected.

While McLemore didn’t shoot as well in 2020-21, it’s important to consider the context. For starters, he played with Harden and Russell Westbrook last season, which got him plenty of open shots. For a rebuilding group like this season’s Rockets without a clear superstar, those opportunities have been harder to come by. McLemore also contracted COVID-19 at the start of the 2020-21 season, which put him behind schedule with Stephen Silas and an entirely 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.

Overall, in two seasons with the Rockets, McLemore averaged 9.3 points (38.2% on 3-pointers) in 20.9 minutes per game.

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