Ray McCallum Could Be The Solution To LeBron’s Problems

Updated: January 25, 2017

“We need a (curse word) playmaker. I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that (to Griffin).”

Uttered by LeBron James in an out of character interview following the Cleveland Cavaliers fifth loss in seven games, these words illuminate a problem that has been facing the Cavaliers since Matthew Dellavedova’s departure to Milwaukee and Mo Williams’ pseudo-retirement.

He added, “No disrespect to DeAndre (Liggins) and to Kay (Felder), you think we can rely on them to help us win a playoff game right now? And it’s no disrespect to them. But it’s like, it’s not fair to them.”

With the NBA season past the halfway point and James acknowledging that the Cavaliers are not in the place personnel-wise that he would like them to be in come playoff time, the team needs to make a move before it’s too late.

While some may turn to figure out how they can get Kevin Love to Boston to appease Bill Simmons or work some trade that would wind up with Chris Paul uniting with his Banana Boat buddy, the most obvious answer to their problems lies just four and a half hours away in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After two years of receiving relatively consistent playing time for the Sacramento Kings (and a year split between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies), Ray McCallum has found himself swimming in the waters of the NBA D-League.

It was not what many expected for the former McDonald’s All-American, but to this point in the D-League season he has shown that he more than likely should be able to find a home on an NBA roster by the end of the season.

Throughout his career, McCallum has been derided for a less than ideal wingspan (6’3) and below-average shooting ability, but he has some skills that would provide value to the Cleveland roster right out of the gate.

During his time with the Kings, then-head coach Mike Malone lauded McCallum’s effort and ability on the defensive end and despite lacking elite physical tools, McCallum makes up for it with exceptional lateral quickness and a great level of overall awareness and intensity.

Malone’s positive impression of McCallum’s defense was based in statistical reality as well, as throughout the 2014-2015 season opponent’s Offensive Rating jumped by 4.4 points (the difference between the Charlotte Hornets and the Cavaliers this year) when McCallum went off of the court.

So far this season with the Grand Rapids Drive, McCallum has proved to be up to the task of dealing with the up-tempo nature of the D-League. On shots from 20-24 feet, McCallum is holding opposing offensive players to a 39.4 field goal percentage, which is comparable to Gary Payton II, a former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

From beyond that range and into three-point territory, McCallum’s 37.4% compares well with the 36.7% mark posted by Josh Magette, one of the D-League’s top perimeter defenders.

His ability on the defensive end is valuable, but that’s currently something that former D-League Defensive Player of the Year DeAndre Liggins is already bringing to the equation. It’s his work on the offensive end that could draw the interest of LeBron.

In terms of his playmaking ability, McCallum has always been well-regarded as a strong floor general that can run an offense without much hesitation.

His 2.59 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks better than Kyrie Irving’s 2.15 mark on the season, and during his last full season in the NBA his turnover rate was 3% lower than Dellavedova’s from last year.

With the unlimited weapons that the Cavs possess in terms of shooters with Channing Frye, Kyle Korver and the currently-injured JR Smith just to name a few, McCallum’s ability to distribute the ball effectively could be a real asset and a welcome change to Felder’s shoot-first mindset.

His defense and playmaking may be up to par, but one of the biggest knocks on McCallum to this point in his career has been his shooting ability, or lack thereof.

A 33.5% three-point shooter over the course of his career, McCallum has taken a bit of a step forward with his jump-shooting during his time with the drive.

Shooting 30.7% on jump shots during his rookie year, 33% in his sophomore campaign and 31.2% last year, McCallum has been hitting his jumper at a 37.3% clip in the D-League this year, which mirrors LeBron’s 37.2% this season.

His true shooting percentage would rank right above Tony Parker, Devin Booker and Monta Ellis as well, so he’s been able to work through one of the major drawbacks that has plagued him throughout his days in the NBA.

Options like Rajon Rondo and Mario Chalmers may be flashier in terms of name recognition, but Ray McCallum may just fit the bill of what LeBron James is looking for in a backup point guard.

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