The Portland Trail Blazers and their fans have had quite a bit to be happy about this season.
Point guard Damian Lillard has followed up his impressive rookie season with a sophomore campaign worthy of even more praise. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is having without question his best season as a professional. And new center Robin Lopez has become the newest in a long line of quirky fan favorites in the Rose City.
But the new addition that most fans were excited about, C.J. McCollum, had, until last week, yet to play a single minute this season.
With the addition of McCollum, the Blazers finally will get to see what they can do with a full roster.
But what exactly should fans expect from McCollum going forward?
The Blazers have been quite an anomaly this season.
A team that was focused on increasing its defensive presence has actually seen very little tangible evidence of improvement on that side of the ball.
Portland is allowing nearly 103 points per game this season, which is 26th in the league. Opponents are shooting over 45 percent from the field and committing only 11.6 turnovers per game.
What Portland has managed to do, however, is knock down shots at a remarkable level.
The Blazers are scoring a league-high 109 points per game, hitting nearly 40 percent of their triples and shooting 45 percent overall from the field.
But the NBA is a league that is all about adjustments, and the Blazers have recently been struggling. After their torrid start to the season, they have put together just a 6-4 record in their last 10 games.
Teams are starting to swarm around Aldridge down low and forcing players like Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews to beat them.
Additional scoring is exactly where the Blazers need help.
McCollum was brought in this season to be the team's future shooting guard. Sure Matthews has had a nice run in Portland, but the thought was that McCollum could start the season on the bench and push Matthews or potentially replace the veteran swingman at some point.
Matthews has responded with a career season, shooting nearly 50 percent from three-point land for much of the 2013-14 campaign.
But in the last five games, Matthews has shot only 35.5 percent from three-point range, continuing a trend in which his perimeter shooting has cooled somewhat after a hot start to the season.
McCollum immediately takes pressure off of Matthews. The veteran Matthews had been averaging over 34 minutes per game this season and while he is having a great season, there has to be a worry in Portland that his workload could get overwhelming.
Additionally, Matthews is the Blazers' best defensive guard, and they are going to need him to continue to keep opponents out of the lane.
What to expect
McCollum is not being asked to come in and be this team's savior; the Blazers were doing fine without him and likely would continue to do so.
But while this team has an impressive record and offensive output, there are legitimate concerns around the league that this could be fool's gold. After all, this is a team that lost its last 13 games to close out last season.
Given that they didn't really add any big names during the offseason, it could be forgiven if fans were apprehensive about this team's ascension.
What the Blazers really need from McCollum is a dynamic scorer off the bench. They need him to be able to take some minutes from both Matthews and Lillard and create his own offense.
If you watch McCollum in college, you can see that he was a playmaker with the ball in his hands. In a lot of ways, the Lehigh offense resembled the Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers teams. McCollum had the ball in his hands and created offense for himself as well as his teammates.
The Blazers don't need McCollum to take over the offense, only add a new wrinkle.
It will be curious to see how he pairs with Lillard going forward. It could be assumed that McCollum will play off the ball the majority of the time, but Lillard's ability to catch and shoot also makes McCollum an intriguing option as a ball-handler.
The Blazers began McCollum's return with consecutive games of 14 minutes, but it should be safe to assume that those numbers will go up in a matter of weeks. Portland has been happy with Mo Williams' production as the backup point guard, but it likely will want to cut his minutes given the amount of miles he has on his legs.
I would assume that McCollum will eventually settle in around 19-20 minutes per game and produce in the neighborhood of 10 points per game.
Ideally, McCollum will also provide some assists, but the real goal is that he knocks down triples in the 40 percent range. This will open up the offense down low for Aldridge and create easy buckets for Lopez.
Blazer fans should be very excited about the prospect of a healthy McCollum.
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