The Difference Between Ben McLemore and Xavier Henry

USA TODAY Sports

One is seen as an amazing success, the other brings up bad feelings. Why?

Yesterday on twitter I mentioned a question: why do people view Ben McLemore as a huge success and Xavier Henry as a failure? They always seemed similar to me, so I was curious as to how other KU fans felt about the two. The answers I got back were fairly illuminating:

This is obviously a fairly wide range of answers, and I think some of them are closer than others to the correct answer. As to the quality of their season, there basically is no difference:

Player ORtg Usage Shots eFG OR/DR
McLemore 118.7 22.1 24.7 58.6 5 / 12.3
Henry 112.7 22.1 24.6 55.5 5.1 / 11.7

Henry is McLemore's #1 comparable on KenPom, and McLemore is Henry's, for good reason. They both thrived as spot up shooters, with McLemore shooting less than 1% better from three than Henry. The big difference was on twos, where McLemore both shot a higher percentage and took roughly 50 more of them. But without nitpicking, they both had almost identical seasons. In fact, I think that one could make the argument that McLemore's was more disappointing, given that Henry had other great offensive players around him, whereas McLemore really needed to be more assertive (though to be fair he did take the most shots on the team).

To further illustrate the similarity, a chart from statsheet:

Because the lines are the same color, it is a bit difficult to tell where Henry ends and McLemore begins, and vice versa, but the main point is that they were nearly identical players.

So is Henry viewed as a failure because the 2010 team lost in the second round of the tournament? If that is the standard then people should view McLemore as an underachiever as well, because this year's team underachieved in terms of tournament expectations as well. (sure they weren't terribly talented, but had four Seniors and the best defensive player in the country. There's a reason they were 2nd in my preseason top 25).

Is it because of recruiting rankings? Henry was a top 10 recruit whereas McLemore was ranked 30 or so spots lower, but I think everyone knows by now how unreliable recruiting rankings are (for example, two of the three best players in this year's national title game weren't even ranked in the top 150 players of their class).

This is certainly not to say that people's opinion of McLemore should be knocked down at all. He is a special talent who is going to be a top 3 pick in the NBA Draft, and I think has a good chance to eventually be an All Star in the NBA. Rather, I think this is a good lesson that, in appreciating how good Xavier Henry was a bit more, people should look beyond draft expectations and media narratives and decide how good a college player was based on his college numbers. A novel concept, I know.

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