This is part two of our continuing “Season in Review” series. Part one can be found here.
For the second straight year, Ray McCallum began the season buried on the bench and emerged a starter.
Yet a major difference from his rookie campaign was the 23-year-old point guard’s assertiveness on offense. Starting all 30 games after the All-Star break, McCallum showed enough growth in a larger sample size to establish himself as a legitimate NBA rotation player.
McCallum, the 36th overall pick of the 2013 draft, has one season and roughly $950,000 remaining on a three-year contract.
McCallum’s most significant improvement in year two was his consistency attacking the basket. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder made the most of his size, strength and explosive step to double his total layup attempts and improve his success rate to 64.1 percent from 52.2 percent a season ago.
Even when he couldn’t reach the key, McCallum zoned in on his short pull-up jumpers. The second-year pro made 43.9 percent between five and 15 feet of the hoop after shooting 27.3 percent last year.
McCallum’s ability to create and finish looks in the paint helped raise his field goal percentage to 43.8 percent from 37.7 percent as a rookie. In 68 appearances, the ball handler averaged 7.4 points and 2.8 assists in 21.1 minutes a game while demonstrating responsibility with the rock.
Those numbers took a sharp jump in McCallum’s 30 games as a starter. With Collison out with injury, the sophomore guard dropped in 11.2 points and 4.2 assists in 30 minutes a night. With the increase in minutes, McCallum’s shooting percentages sky rocketed as well. As a starter, he shot 45.2 percent from the field and a respectable 34.3 percent from long range.
Furthermore, McCallum is an underrated rebounder for his position. He hauled in 4.5 boards per 36 minutes, including 1.3 offensive rebounds.
McCallum’s outside shot remains a work in progress. A 29 percent 3-point shooter at the University of Detroit Mercy, the guard followed a 37.3 percent result as a rookie with 30.6 percent accuracy on 1.6 attempts behind the arc this season. McCallum’s inability to spread the floor on cold nights hampered the Kings’ offense and afforded defenders more leeway to double-team DeMarcus Cousins. The issue was compounded when Sacramento paired McCallum in the backcourt with a notoriously mediocre outside shooter in Andre Miller.
On corner 3’s, McCallum shot a combined 26 percent, and didn’t fare much better with 28.6 percent accuracy from the top of the arc. He made 37.1 percent from mid-range, where the Kings are making a conscious effort to reduce attempts.
As far as playing the role of a distributor, McCallum left coaches yearning for more. His assist percentage of 21.3 was nearly identical to his rookie season and a far cry from Miller’s 34.9 and Collison’s 27.2 percent this year.
Defense, which was McCallum’s calling card heading into this season, suffered a regression. He served as the Kings’ designated “stopper” off the bench early in the schedule, but an uptick in minutes and heavier responsibilities on offense took away from his effectiveness. Opposing assignments shot 5.2 percent better from the floor when McCallum guarded them, and an abysmal 17.7 percent within six feet of the basket. No one said going up against the likes of Tony Parker or Stephen Curry four times a year is fun, but guarding All-Stars almost nightly in a point guard-rich NBA never deterred the youngster.
Despite starting the last 30 games, McCallum has no guarantees to be a starter or even a key reserve. Veteran point guard Darren Collison will be returning from injury, and the Kings will be looking to upgrade their roster by any means necessary. On a bargain expiring contract, McCallum could be just as likely packaged in a trade, or ride out his deal with Sacramento.
What’s set in stone is that McCallum is a young asset. He’ll need to develop his jumpshot, on-ball defense and the finer nuances of point guard play, but the Kings would be foolish to bet against his proven work ethic. A full offseason under head coach George Karl can only help.
Cowbell Kingdom would like your opinion. How do you grade Collison’s season?