One season after selecting reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers appear to have found themselves another keeper for their backcourt with CJ McCollum.
McCollum, the 10th selection of this year's NBA Draft out of Lehigh, is averaging 18.5 points 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists through the first two games in the Las Vegas Summer League. He has already drawn comparisons to Lillard as a hybrid guard out of a small school, who could arguably be the most NBA-ready in this year's draft class.
The 21-year-old is already drawing rave reviews from around the league, his coaches and in the media.
Day 2 in Vegas for summer league- loving CJ McCollum.He's going to be a player. McLemore and Otto Porter both had rough days, but it's early— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) July 14, 2013
"I've been very pleased with his ability to run the point." - Coach Stotts on @CJMcCollum— Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers) July 14, 2013
CJ McCollum impressing with every aspect of his game: creating O, shooting, defense, passing.— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) July 14, 2013
His ability to create his own shot has been impressive. His step-back jumper is reminiscent of his future backcourt mate in Lillard. He can take opponents off the dribble and finish at the rim, showing off the repertoire immediately in the Summer League opener against Phoenix.
The biggest issue for Portland will be how McCollum fits into the backcourt plans with Lillard and Wesley Matthews returning as the starters. Chemistry, however, should not be a concern as Lillard and McCollum have developed a friendship over time and have eagerly awaited to play with each other.
Damian Lillard loved the C.J. McCollum pick. They've been good friends for a long time. He can't wait to play alongside him next season.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 14, 2013
Despite's Lillard's stellar play as the Blazers' point guard last season, he also excelled off the ball when paired with former Blazer Eric Maynor. McCollum and Lillard have all-around skill sets that should complement each other well.
When news hit that McCollum was available at No. 10 for the Blazers and the pick was made by general manager Neil Olshey, it was widely endorsed by Lillard.
More Dame on CJ: "I told Neil to draft him three months ago. He asked my opinion and I said 'I like CJ McCollum.'"— Candace Buckner (@blazerbanter) July 14, 2013
McCollum's Summer League debut was successful and a good sign, as he tallied 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting with three rebounds and four assists. Lillard was one of many who came away happy with what he saw.
Damian Lillard said he was impressed by CJ McCollum in SL debut: "I liked his swagger," Lillard said. "He wasn’t shaken up about it ..."— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) July 14, 2013
Dame cont: "... being the first game. He missed a couple shots to start and it didn’t bother him. He still made shots. And he attacked."— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) July 14, 2013
With the NBA moving to a guard-oriented league, it becomes more important for teams to emphasize the need for solid point guards. Portland will have two. Veteran Earl Watson, who recently signed with the Blazers, will play an integral role in helping the development of both players.
McCollum is a sound, steady and crafty guard, who will prove to be one of the top players out of this year's draft.