The summer of 2015 was one that led to much uncertainty around the Portland Trailblazers. Departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews had fans and experts questioning the Blazers’ ability to compete in the Western Conference. Currently the ninth seed with a 14-20 record, Portland has struggled in many contests because of their mediocre offense. Aside from Lillard, C.J. McCollum is the only other consistent threat the Blazers have on offense.
Think back a couple of years to when C.J. McCollum was at Lehigh University and considered one of the best scorers in college. He was a two-time Patriot POY winner, the all-time leading scorer in conference history, and led the conference in PPG twice and finished second as a freshman; he most likely would’ve led as a senior if he didn’t suffer his broken foot injury.
McCollum Is Portland’s Next Best SG?
Portland is now seeing the McCollum that everyone was hoping for. With Matthews gone, McCollum is now the starting shooting guard, and he developed into a lethal scorer. Averaging 20.7 points per game this season, up almost 14 from the last, the backcourt of him and Lillard is looking like a great asset for Portland.
McCollum has a litany of offensive moves and decent size for a shooting guard (6’4″, 200). He’s not great at any one thing on offense, but he’s good at a whole lot, and that all-around skill is what helps him put up numbers. McCollum has a perfect combination of inside-outside scoring ability and has point guard skills as a two-guard.
He shoots the three ball at about 40% making him a very respectable shooter, and he benefits from Lillard’s ability to get into the lane; knocking down 45.5% of his threes off a Lillard pass.
Point Guard Skill
As mentioned earlier, McCollum has point guard skill and is relatively efficient when running the pick & roll. Being the ball handler in the PnR about 37% of the time, McCollum’s PPP (points per possession) is at 0.95, and the Blazers are scoring over 40% of the time with him in that position.
If he chooses, he can take his defender one-on-one. McCollum’s size equates to a mismatch against point guards, and his athleticism gives him an edge over most shooting guards; if teams switch on the PnR, it’s another mismatch if he’s matched with a four or five.
McCollum struggles around the basket but can negate his deficiency because he has a sweet floater that he’s been starting to use more and more. With his above-average athleticism, he’s able to avoid shot blockers on his floaters and him a bit more unpredictable on offense.
McCollum has what it takes to become a great sidekick to Damian Lillard. He can shoot, get into the lane & create and he’s a decent perimeter defender; opponents shoot 36% when guarded 15+ from the basket by McCollum. His mid-range area is a bit inconsistent right now, but it’ll come if it puts in the work. On top of what he has now, he has proven himself capable of running the team in the absence of Lillard, something that must excite Blazer fans.
Although Portland lost a bunch of great players over the summer, if they can add one more frontcourt player, they’ll be in the midst of the top teams in the West.
*Photo Credit: Randy L. Rasmussen / Oregon Live*[poll id=”3″]